Mental Health – What is it?

According to the World Health Organization(WHO), authors of the Mental Health Action Plan[1], mental health is an individual’s sense of well-being, the ability to function productively in work, home, and community environments, and the ability to cope with the stresses of normal daily life. Mental health is also the ability to control our thoughts and emotions, behaviours, our physical and mental well-being, and to effect our living conditions, social and work environments.

Mental health - New Brain NutritionWays to maintain mental health include:

  • Personal connections and social interactions
  • Helping others – coming out of yourself
  • Staying positive
  • A physically active lifestyle
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Getting adequate sleep on a regular basis
  • Learning and employing coping skills
  • Getting professional help if you need it

Mental health is an important part of overall health, according to WHO. Health is not just the absence of disease.  Health allows individuals to live a long and productive lives.  Health is a vital resource we have that enables us to function productively in our environment, satisfy core needs, and achieve our goals and ambitions.

Mental Illness and Disorder – What is it?

Mental health problems can effect result in disordered or troubled thinking, unstable mood shifts, and erratic or unpredictable behaviors.  These can manifest in ten categories[2]:

Mental illness - New Brain Nutrition

  1. Anxiety disorder
  2. Behavioral disorder
  3. Eating disorder
  4. Substance use disorder
  5. Mood disorder
  6. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  7. Personality disorder
  8. Psychotic disorder
  9. Suicidal behavior
  10. Trauma and stress-related disorder

Mental illness is complicated and fragile, and can be brought on or exacerbated by combinations of factors including, family history, early childhood challenges, genetics, socio-economic conditions, environmental conditions, trauma, and poor lifestyle.

The primary medical modes for addressing mental health problems today are medications and psychotherapy.  Nutrition and lifestyle have been thought to be of little consequence.

While short-term benefits of medications have been documented, long-term positive results are questionable. For example, a 2017 multi-modal treatment study of young adults with ADHD, following them from ages 18 through 25, showed “medication effects were not significant.”[3]  This is not to say that medications are ineffective.  It is more to say that exploring short and long-term effects of nutrition and lifestyle is worthwhile.

Rates of mental illness are rising, according to the World Health Organization.  “The burden of mental disorders continues to grow with significant impacts on health and major social, human rights and economic consequences in all countries of the world.”[4]  It is unclear whether the data trend is due to better detection and diagnosis, changes in environment or genetics, the aging world population and life expectancy, or economic and political stresses.

Nutrition, Lifestyle, and Mental Health

There is a growing body of scientific evidence of the powerful effects of nutrition and lifestyle on mental health.  See our helpful information on Healthy Nutrition. We have a lot of great information to share there.fig and cheese salad

Here at New Brain Nutrition (funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 project Eat2beNICE (2017-2022))[5], we are focused on ground-breaking research and clinical trials to evidence the relationship between nutrition, lifestyle, and our mental health.  We are both a research and dissemination program with the intent of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health. Our goal over the period 2017-2022 is to solidify scientific evidence on the relationships between mental health and lifestyle and nutrition.  We’ll be conducting rigorously scientific studies and clinical trials on various types of diets, supplementation, effects of exercise and lifestyle, and understanding the pathways of communication between the gut and the brain (the “gut-brain” axis) with the intent of improving peoples’ quality of life.


[1] Mental health action plan 2013 – 2020. (2013). Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization

[2] Mental health: What to Look For. accessed May 19, 2018

[3]Young adult outcomes in the follow‐up of the multimodal treatment study of attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder: symptom persistence, source discrepancy, and height suppression – Swanson – 2017 – Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry – Wiley Online Library. (2017). Retrieved from

[4] Mental Disorders: Key Facts. World Health Organization.  Accessed May 19, 2018

[5] EU Horizon 2020 grant agreement No 728018 (2017-2022)