Understanding mental health

1 in every 4 people experience a mental health problem at some point, from stress and anxiety, to anger, depression and loneliness. You are not alone – help and support is available in lots of different ways.

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We are going to ask you a few questions about things that might be affecting how good you feel. Once we know what is important to you, we can point you to useful information and advice.

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Talking to someone

It can be difficult to speak about your mood and your circumstances, but talking to someone about the way you are feeling can be a big, positive step towards good mental health. You can get a load off your chest, and share the thoughts you’ve been keeping in your head.

Take your time, and use whatever words come to you. Lots of people will listen, but there are specialist helplines if you need to talk about something urgently or if you feel like you cannot cope.

Call the Samaritans 116 123

    Youth mental health

    Everyone feels low, sad or upset from time to time, but you shouldn’t always feel down or anxious. Low spirits should lift after a little while, but if they don’t, you might be experiencing deeper underlying problems at school, work or in your relationships.

    If you’re stressed with studying for exams, worried about bullying, feeling anxious or thinking about self-harm, there are lots of places young people can turn to for help, support and an understanding ear.

    0161 226 7457

    Mental health problems

    Mental health problems can affect any one of us. Research shows at least 1 in 4 of us have experienced mental health issues such as heightened emotions, low moods, stress or depression at one time or another.

    A mental health problem could be as simple as worrying about something that’s happening in every day life, to a serious long-term condition that affects the way someone sees the world and the way they live.

    Some mental health problems are more common than others, some are hard to diagnose. Some just impact the way we feel, whilst others can change how we behave. Anxiety and depression are two of the most common conditions to affect us, ranging from mild to extremely severe. Even less-common conditions like bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia affect 1 to 2 people out every 100. Whatever kind of problem you might be suffering from, there is help available. Help understanding it, help living with it, and help overcoming it.

    Types of mental health problems

    There are many kinds of mental health problems and issues that any of us can experience. Some are short–term, dependent on our moods and the way we’re feeling, whilst others have deeper, long-lasting effects. These are some of the more common ones.


    Depression can be mild, moderate or severe, and can stop someone from leading a normal life. It’s a common mental health problem that affects many of us.

    Low moods and moments of feeling down are something we all experience. However, these feelings will pass after a short while. If you are feeling consistently sad, unhappy, hopeless and miserable for long periods of time – weeks or months – then you could be suffering from depression.

    Being depressed is a serious, real illness. It can affect people in different ways; a mild form of depression may just mean you are continually in low spirits and find day-to-day life constant hard work. More severe forms of depression can stop you from leading a normal life, and may even be life threatening if you have self-harming or suicidal thoughts.

    Depression can be linked to many different events and circumstances in your life too. Triggers include life-changing events such as losing your job, having a baby, physical illnesses or the bereavement of a close friend or family member. Specific types of depression include pre- or post-natal and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter months.

    The symptoms of depression can be varied, and it affects different people in different ways. Emotional signs to watch out for include low moods that last for more than two weeks, feeling hopeless or helpless, guilt for no reason, low-self esteem and no enjoyment of life. Physical symptoms of depression are changes in appetite, a loss of sex drive, a lack of energy and sleeping problems.


    Being stressed can cause other mental health problems to develop or worsen, such as anxiety. Struggling to cope with mental health difficulties can also be stressful.

    Stress is something we are all familiar with. It’s our body’s natural response to difficult situations and circumstances, and is a normal process to help us deal with the challenges we face. It’s a part of the ‘fight or flight’ response, and stress can be good for us in small amounts. Being moderately stressed helps us to focus, giving us more energy and helping us to perform better. Some people even thrive on exhilarating, stressful situations with extreme sports or high-risk activities.

    But stress should only be a short-lived response to a situation, which should fade away once the problem you’re facing has passed. Some people can feel like they are under constant pressure and always in a stressful situation. Long-term excessive stress can affect both your physical and mental health.

    There are many different reasons why you might be suffering from stress. Some of the most common ones are problems at work, losing a job, financial difficulties, or relationship worries. Sometimes there is no logical reason. There are also many symptoms of stress, including emotional signs – such as feeling overwhelmed or anxious, and physical signs – such as a racing heart, headaches and dizziness. The key is learning how to manage stress, to help you cope, concentrate and prevent unnecessary worrying.


    We all feel anxious and worried at times, but serious anxiety can stop you from living a normal life if you’re worried about day-to-day activities.

    Everyone gets anxious at some point or another, where we feel tense, uneasy, nervous and a little worried or fearful. It’s a natural response in our body based on the situations in our lives, and a recent study showed that 1 in 6 of us have felt depressed or anxious in the last week.

    But anxiety should be short-lived and pass quickly. Some people feel anxious and worried most of, or all of the time, or they have significantly high levels of anxiety which can cause a lot of problems.

    Although it’s normal and perhaps helpful to be nervous before big events like exams, anxiety should never stop you from being able to do something. If you are constantly feeling afraid or scared, worried about doing the wrong thing, or upsetting someone for no reason, you could be suffering from serious anxiety. The worst cases of anxiety can leave you worrying about normal, everyday life and things that may never happen, paralysed by social situations, and even afraid to leave the house.

    The causes of anxiety are unclear, and could be the result of several factors, including how we were brought up, the experiences we’ve been through, how we see the world, and even our genes. Anything can trigger anxiety, but it’s usually a big event or significant change in your life, like exams or work deadlines, first dates, having a baby, or getting married. Some of the signs to watch out for are similar to stress; fast breathing and a heavy heartbeat, sweating, a dry mouth and a churning stomach.


    PTSD can affect anyone who has been through a serious, traumatic event and have serious consequences on your long-term mental and physical health.

    If you have been through or witnessed a particularly stressful, frightening or traumatic experience, then you will undoubtedly find yourself feeling anxious, upset, numb and going through a range of different emotions. That is normal, and those feelings are likely to slowly reduce and disappear over time as you come to terms with your experience.

    Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severe anxiety condition where someone suffers from an extreme reaction to a traumatic event. They may experience flashbacks to the event itself, severe stress or panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia and prolonged feelings of depression and numbness. Left un-treated, it can stop someone from living a normal life.

    PTSD was originally commonly associated with soldiers on the battlefield, suffering what was then called shell shock. But it is not limited to military experiences. PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as death, rape, violent attacks, serious accidents or long-term abuse.

    Post-traumatic stress can develop at any time after a serious, traumatic event. Symptoms may show straight away, or may take a few weeks, months or even years to surface. This is known as delayed-onset PTSD. Those who have suffered long periods of abuse, particularly as a child, could also be diagnosed with complex PTSD. The important thing to remember is that treatment and help is available for PTSD, so you don’t need to suffer alone.


    You don’t need to go through grief alone. Talking to someone about how you feel can be a big help when someone close to you dies.

    Grief after someone close to you dies is a very common, normal experience to go through. Losing a loved one is a terrible, devastating experience, and it affects each of us in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to feel, and no set amount of time that you should grieve for. Everyone is different, and we each deal with grief in our own unique ways.

    When someone you love passes away, you are likely to go through a whole range of emotions, feeling up and down at different times as if you were on a rollercoaster. One minute it can seem like you’re coping OK, but then the next day you feel like you’ve been knocked over and are starting all over again.

    This is normal, and it’s common to go through different stages of grief. These include accepting that the loss is real, and then allowing yourself to actually experience grief. It’s OK to be upset, or angry, or any other kind of emotion you want to feel. Eventually, you will start to adjust to life without that person, and begin moving your energies from grieving into other areas of your life.

    During the grieving period, you could feel shocked and numb, as well as tired, exhausted and overwhelmingly sad. Again, these are all normal, natural feelings. Many of us also feel guilty, for one reason or another, either at ourselves, an illness, or even at God. There is nothing wrong with any of these feelings, and they will pass over time.

    Bi-Polar Disorder

    People with bi-polar disorder swing between periods of extreme energy and mania, and episodes of severe depression.

    Bi-polar disorder is a condition that around 1 in every 100 people suffers from. It affects your moods, and causes you to swing from feelings of severe sadness and depression to extremely high, happy emotions where you are full of energy and often overactive. As you shift from episodes of mania (where you are extremely active and frantic) to periods of depression (where you’re extremely low), the condition used to be referred to as manic depression.

    Most people are diagnosed with bi-polar disorder between the ages of 15 and 19, although it can develop at any age in both men and women. It’s extremely rare to develop it after the age of 40. It’s not clear what causes the disorder, but triggers could include stressful situations, difficult problems, and life-changing events.

    The symptoms of bi-polar disorder depend on which type of ‘mood state’ you are in, and can vary from person to person. Everyone experiences the condition differently; some people may only have one or two mania episodes over the space of several years, whilst others may primarily have depression periods, with only mild experiences of hypomania.

    During the periods of mania, symptoms include hyperactivity, talking fast, racing thoughts and the feeling you don’t need to sleep. You might also develop grand ideas about your skills and your goals, feeling extremely ambitious and going on spending sprees for things you can’t afford. Symptoms during the depression periods include feelings of complete hopelessness, as well as suicidal thoughts. It’s vital you seek professional help during either period, as there are several treatments and types of support available to help you cope.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder

    SAD is usually linked to feelings of depression, sleeping problems and a severe lack of energy during the winter months every year.

    There is one type of depression which can be affected by the changing seasons, with symptoms developing and worsening over the winter months. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or ‘winter depression.’

    Many of us are affected by the change in weather; the sun makes us happier, with more energy, whilst the long nights of winter leave us wanting to eat and sleep more. But those who suffer from SAD experience the symptoms more severely, seriously affecting their mood and energy levels and even stopping them from normal, day-to-day activities.

    The causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder are not fully understood, but it could be linked to the reduced exposure to sunlight and the affect this has on the mood hormones produced by our bodies. It may also be linked to genes, as SAD can be diagnosed in members of the same family.

    Most commonly, SAD starts to develop during the autumn, with symptoms including sleeping problems and a lack of energy, a persistent low mood and signs of depression, overeating and the craving for carbohydrates, and increased irritability and a lack of motivation or care. Seasonal affective disorder will often return each autumn and winter, before improving in the spring and summer in a cyclical pattern.

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    OCD is a combination of obsessive, constant thoughts and the compulsive repetitive actions that must be performed to stop the obsessions.

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is caused by severe feelings of anxiety, and can affect anyone at any age. A lot of people will develop the condition in early adulthood, but some young people will show signs of OCD during puberty.

    The obsessions are unwanted worries, distressing thoughts or unpleasant urges that pop into your mind and you cannot stop thinking about them. They may be irrational, but you cannot resist them, and they cause anxiety, fear, stress or disgust. Examples might be thinking the house will burn down or be burgled, or that you’re going to catch a disease from touching something unclean.

    Compulsions are the actions you take because of the obsessions. They are likely to be very repetitive, as many people with OCD find they need to make sure something is done perfectly, which is why they will often repeat themselves. Completing a task or a ritual can be necessary to reduce the anxiety experienced from the obsessive thoughts. Examples include locking the door multiple times to check it’s secure, checking every plug is switched off several times, or constantly washing your hands.

    The causes of OCD are not known, and the intensity of it can vary greatly between sufferers. It could be a result of genes or life experiences, differences in the brain or just personality. Many people might have small obsessions and compulsions they can live with, whilst for other people, OCD can affect their every day life and stop them doing things. Talking to someone and getting treatment can help you cope with and reduce obsessive compulsive tendencies.

    Are you caring for someone with mental health problems?

    There are so many different types of mental health problems, with many varying in intensity and symptoms, that it can be very difficult to know what to do.

    Helping someone else can be challenging, but there is lots of support available in Salford to help you and your loved ones cope. The important thing to remember is that mental health issues can feel very isolating. Feelings and emotions can be difficult to talk about, so it’s important to show someone they are not alone.

    Available help in your area

    Whatever kind of mental health problem you might be facing, there is always someone you can talk to. Speak to your GP, call Salford’s Self-Help Services on 0161 226 3871 or find a session below.

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