Healthy lives for young people
  • Help & Advice
  • Find a Service
    Close icon

Mental Health Problems

Mental health problems, sometimes called mental illness or mental disorders, covers to a broad range of problems with different symptoms. Find out about spotting the signs of mental health problems and how to get help. 

What are mental health problems?

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year (NHS England, 2020). 
Mental health problems, sometimes called mental illness or mental disorders, covers a broad range of problems with different symptoms. However, they are generally characterised by some combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behaviours and relationships with others.  

Often, mental health problems are formally diagnosed when they are long-lasting and have a significant effect on a person’s day-to-day life. However, it’s important to remember that not all mental health problems get diagnosed and that diagnosis is not a requirement for someone to receive help and support with their mental health.  

Examples of mental health problems include: 

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety and panic attacks 
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Eating problems 
  • Trauma 
  • Psychosis 
  • Personality disorders 
  • Body dysmorphic disorder 

You can find more information on the Mind website about these plus other types of mental health problems and details of where to find help with them. 

What causes mental health problems? 

There are many factors that can contribute to mental health problems and, because everyone is different, some things may affect certain people more than others. Common factors in mental health problems include: 

  • Biological factors, such as genes, hormones or brain chemistry 
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse 
  • Family history of mental health problems 
  • Medication, including contraception, and substances 

What are the signs of a mental health problem? 

Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviours can be an early warning sign of a mental health problem: 

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little 
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities 
  • Having low or no energy 
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters 
  • Having unexplained aches and pains 
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless 
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual 
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared 
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends 
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships 
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head 
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true 
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others 
  • Thinking about ending your life 
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school 

Mental health problems are common but you don’t need to deal with them alone. If you are worried about your mental health, or about someone else’s, there are lots of places that can offer you help and support. 

Getting help 

We all need help sometimes. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness, you don’t even have to know exactly what’s wrong. Whenever you are ready to talk to someone, you can. 

If you are worried about your mental health, or about someone else’s, there are lots of places that can offer you help and support. 

You can also speak to your friends, family, a trusted adult, GP, a Brook service or another healthcare professional.  

Helping someone else

It can be hard to know what to do when someone you care about is going through a difficult time. Read guidance created by young people on helping a friend or relative with their mental health.


    Other Stuff you might find useful…

    Real Stories
    Mental health and a birthday to remember: Rachel’s story
    Find mental health and emotional support
    Mental health and emotional wellbeing
    Real Stories
    Anxiety: Melissa’s story
    Real Stories
    Anxiety & sex: Iona’s story
    Find LGBT+ support near you
    Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying


    Find a Service near you