Mental health 101

To take control of our emotional health, we have to understand it. Learn about mental health, what influences it and ways to protect and improve it here.

What impacts our mental health?

Where we are on the mental health continuum–from thriving to distressed–is influenced by a number of factors. Some we can control and others we can’t. Understanding the difference can help us influence and improve our well-being.

Factors that we can’t always control:


Upbringing/early life experiences

Past trauma or difficult experiences

Medical history

Other people’s perception of us

Other people’s treatment or mistreatment of us

Access to quality mental health care

Factors that we can often control:

Our perceptions of mental health and help-seeking

Coping strategies (healthy or unhealthy approaches)

Self-esteem and sense of purpose

Self-care routines including nutrition, sleep, exercise and mindfulness

Stress levels and how we manage stress and anxiety

Relationships with friends and family members (support network)

Substance use

Willingness to talk openly about our thoughts and feelings

Ways to support your mental health

Just like with our physical health, there are actions we can take to feel our best, deal with challenges that come our way and manage mental health conditions like depression.

  • Self-care

    Self-care means taking care of ourselves. Sleep, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness practices (see below), recharging or doing something we enjoy. Our mental and physical health are connected, so the best self-care strategies support our minds and bodies.

  • Mindfulness

    A form of self-care, mindfulness helps us be present in the moment, find calm and quiet, and accept challenging thoughts and feelings. Practices include meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and journaling, and what works best differs from person-to-person.

  • Coping

    Coping strategies are how we try to overcome, minimize or avoid mental health challenges. Some are healthy (seeing friends, mindfulness practices) others not (drug or alcohol misuse, self-injury). Mental health professionals can help with strategies.

  • Support network

    We are not alone, and simply talking about our feelings can make them less overwhelming. Supporting friends who are struggling also boosts our mental health. So cultivate a strong support network, even if it’s just one special person you can be honest with.

  • Mental health care

    Mental health professionals, like counselors and psychologists, are trained to help with our emotional challenges including relationship issues, work stress, loss, mental health conditions and substance misuse. Check out our help-seeking page for more.

How to help a friend

Friends and family are often the first to notice when someone is struggling. It’s crucial to trust those instincts and take action. Our “For a Friend” page includes common warning signs and tips for starting a conversation and being supportive.

Learn More