Mental Health: Why Does It Matter?

A woman writes a note on a freedom wall during a celebration of World Mental Health Day in Pasay City, the Philippines, Oct. 9, 2018. (Photo: Xinhua)
  • Meak Mealeatey
  • December 3, 2020 8:50 AM

Nowadays, there have been many discussions revolving around the issues of how important mental health is. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), many people are experiencing mental health problems; approximately 800,000 people commit suicide every year—around 36 people a day.

Cambodia is also a country where many people are known to have mental health problems, according to many sources. It can be observed that there were many cases of suicide in recent years, especially among young people. Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO), a prominent organization working on mental health care and psychological support in Cambodia stated that “Cambodia is a country where the population is at a high risk of poor mental health.”

According to the organization, it is estimated that about 40% of Cambodians suffer from mental health and psychological problems. Numerous studies document high levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Cambodia, and the suicide rate has also been proven to be much higher than the worldwide average.

Mental health is defined as a state of emotional, psychological, and social well-being. In other words, mental health refers to cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It is all about how people think, feel, and behave. People sometimes use the term “mental health” to mean the absence of a mental disorder.

Our mental health problem can be a sign of mental illness. Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders, have a significant effect on our thought and behavior and may also affect our ability to interact with others. Fortunately, mental ailments can ordinarily be treated or managed.

No doubt, we all have our ups and downs; if we feel we are not adapting, the first thing we will be able to do is to open up our problems to others and ask for help.

The Importance of Mental Health

Mental health affects physical health

Mental illness is the silent killer, and it can take one’s life just like any other diseases. The mind and the body are associated. Numerous mental afflictions cause stress, which brings down the immune system. This implies more frequent ailments. For instance, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts if it is not timely treated. Our health will not be balanced if we only focus on physical health.

Stress and anxiety can gradually damage our physical health. According to WebMD, “Worry causes the body to release stress hormones that speed up your heart rate and breathing, raise your blood sugar, and send more blood to your arms and legs. Over time, this can affect your heart, blood vessels, muscles, and other systems”. Thus, it is vital to understand mental illness and treat it as soon as possible.

Mental health affects daily lives

Clearly, as our mental health improves, so do our daily lives. Whether our mental well-being is bad or good, it is still a vital part of our daily lives. Therefore, a mental health problem can cause us to feel hopeless, sad, and worthless. Our relationships may suffer. Our performance in any situation such as school, work​, or other social activities may be bound to decline.

We may also lose interest in things we once enjoyed. Task completion and time management may fall apart. It may also become difficult for us to concentrate. If we have a mental illness, our daily work will be affected. For example, when we are experiencing severe anxiety or stress, we might find it difficult to sleep, focus on work, and even do simple things.

Mental health creates psychosomatic symptoms

Sometimes, we felt extreme pain in any part of our body but could not find any of the actual physical symptoms. While such pain may not necessarily have any physical reason, it may be instigated by our emotional or stress-related issues called “psychosomatic illness.”

As can be expected, having good mental health is of vital importance for everyone because it helps us get through the day easily so that we can form healthy relationships with others and enjoy the life we need.

Tips to Improve Mental Health

It is easy to feel overwhelmed in terms of anxiety, stress, and other psychological problems in light of an uncertain situation. We can improve our psychological strengths by centering on the side of things we can control. Mental health is also critical for each person, so here are some tips to take care of our mental well-being to prevent mental sickness.

Open up your feeling

We all have time when we feel down, stressed, or anxious. However, most of these feelings will pass you by, but sometimes they can also develop into a serious state of mind. We should always open up about how we feel inside when things do not go our way and find someone we can trust to listen to our problem. Say it out if it can help us to feel better.

Keep in touch

Strong family ties and supportive friends can help us deal with the stresses of life. Undoubtedly, friends and family can make us feel less lonely because they can offer different perspectives from things inside our head, plus they will surely be our supporters to keep us strong.

Go to bed on time

We should attempt to go to bed at a regular time each day because if we do not have enough sleep, it will affect our mood. According to Psychology Today, “Sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on your mood.” So, give yourself a specific bedtime.


Exercise has many benefits, not only for our physical health but also for our mental health. It improves our mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and improving our self-esteem and cognitive function.


Meditation makes us feel calmer, less thinking about negative things; it will improve our mental health. So, we should do it regularly, at least once a week.

Staying positive

It is essential to have a positive outlook. Staying positive does not mean that we never feel negative; we just do not want those emotions to take over us.

We should take a break from negative information, go out, and have fun with friends, use social media to reach out for support and feel connected to others.

Be yourself

Some people do not think about what they love or want. Instead, they aim to do things just to please people around them. It would be a mistake to think that this way makes us happy​. Conversely, it only proves that our happiness depends on what others think or say. This way of thinking will easily affect our mental health. So please focus more on your feeling, love yourself more, and stop caring too much about what others think of you.


Mental health is essential at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Over the course of our life, if we experience mental health problems, our thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected.

Mental illness is common to all people, whether severe or mild, depending on each person. If our minds are healthy and strong, the problem can be solved quickly. For some people, it comes and goes. For others, it may stay on longer.

That is why we all need to take care of our mental health to avoid any serious mental illnesses. When we have good mental well-being, we can make the most out of our potential, cope with life, and play a full part in our family, friends, workplace, and beyond.

MEAK Mealeatey is an intern at Cambodia Education Forum (CEF). She is a senior student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Economics Development at the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE).

This article was originally published by Cambodian Education Forum on November 30, 2020.

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