Mental Health


Mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stressors of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Many factors contribute to an individual’s mental health status, both biological and environmental. Studies have shown that certain biological factors, such as genetics and brain chemistry, can play a role in mental health conditions. Additional research shows that some mental health disorders, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), can be linked to traumatic life experiences and an individuals’ environment. Most of the time it is not a single factor that causes a mental health condition, but a combination of biological and environmental factors. 

“Mental health…is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.”        - Noam Shpancer

Mental Health Data Overview

Check out the points below for main takeaways from this page. 

• Nationally, there has been a 133% increase in the mental health/behavioral disorder death rate from 1999-2019. Hillsborough County went from 8 deaths per year in 1999 to 47 deaths per year in 2019, an increase of 487%, which is almost quadruple that of the national rate. These numbers do not include death from substance use disorder.

• In 2017, 8.3% of adults in New Hampshire (NH) had reported having a major depressive episode within the past year, slightly higher than the United States (U.S.) average of 6.9%.

• In 2017, 5.3% of adults in NH reported they experienced a serious mental illness, also slightly higher than the U.S. average of 4.4%.

• Approximately 20% of adolescents have a diagnosable mental health condition. In 2019, 32% of High School students in the Greater Nashua Public Health Region (GNPHR) have reported feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness consecutively for a two week period.

• In 2018, Hillsborough County had 261 Mental Health providers per 100,000 people.

Impact of Mental Health

Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. Mental health plays an important role in the way we deal with emotions, how we relate to others, and the decisions we make in our daily lives. Achieving mental health has also been proven to have a positive impact on an individual’s overall well-being. Research shows that there is a very clear and powerful mind-body connection, and this connection explains why having certain physical ailments can negatively affect your mental health, and how some mental aliments can have a negative impact on your physical health. In the U.S., more than 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point during their lifetime. Mental health conditions, especially depression, can increase the risk for many physical health problems, including long-lasting conditions like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. 

Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep can play an important role in metabolic and emotion regulation, performance, memory consolidation, and brain development. The recommended amount of sleep for adults to maintain good health is at least 7 hours each night. This increases to 8-10 hours for teens and 9-12 hours for school aged children

Lack of sleep can affect the state of your mental health. Individuals with mental health conditions are more likely to have sleep disorders. According to Harvard University, it is estimated that 65 to 90% of adults with depression and more than 50% of adults with anxiety disorder experience some type of sleep problem. 

Mental Health and Adolescents

Mental health is an important aspect of overall health in all stages of life. Adolescence is a critical time for mental, social, and emotional wellbeing and development where individuals establish neural pathways and behavior patterns that will last into adulthood. Although many individuals first present mental illness in adolescence, it can be harder to detect at that time and can often go without a diagnosis until adulthood. Early treatment and starting the conversation at a young age can help prevent more severe, lasting problems as a child ages. Mental health plays a large role in healthy emotional and physical development, along with sexual and reproductive health, violence and unintentional injury, substance use, and nutrition and obesity. For more information, visit our Healthy Kids page.

Social Media

Adolescents in today's society are growing up in a very different world. In the U.S., 95% of teens have access to a smartphone and 75% of teens have at least one social media account. The use of social media by the developing brain can have both health risks and benefits, both affecting their mental health. Many platforms provide a route of connection with peers as well as information and resources that are important to youth as they are learning; however, adolescents and their caregivers need to be cautious of the risk associated with social media, including cyberbullying and other digital aggressions.

"Social media has the ability to connect adolescents who may be excluded in their daily life. We need to find a better way to balance the benefits of social media with possible negative health outcomes."  - Kira Riehm

Access to Mental Health Care

Receiving mental health care should not be a challenge. Access to comprehensive, quality mental health care services can improve quality of life because everyone benefits from early diagnosis and treatment. Some people may not be able to find mental health care due to the lack of providers in their area, long distances for travel, long wait lists, or costs, which may be exacerbated by lack of insurance coverage. In Greater Nashua, our community is working to decrease these barriers to allow for equitable mental health care services.

Health Equity & Mental Health

A person's health can be seriously impacted by their race, ethnicity, gender, income level, education, and other socioeconomic factors. In regards to mental health...

• Only one-in-three African Americans who need mental health care receive it (The Role of Faith-Based Organizations in the Depression Care of African Americans and Hispanics in Los Angeles).

• Compared with whites; African Americans are less likely to receive guideline-consistent care, less frequently included in research, and more likely to use emergency rooms or primary care (rather than mental health specialists) (Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity).

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