What causes mental health problems?

Mental health problems can have a wide range of causes. In most cases, no one is sure precisely what the cause of a particular problem is. It is likely that for many people there is a combination of factors, although some people may be more deeply affected by certain things than others. The following factors could potentially trigger a period of poor mental health:

  • Childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect
  • Social isolation or loneliness
  • Experiencing discrimination and stigma
  • The death of someone close to you
  • Severe or long-term stress
  • Unemployment or losing your job
  • Social disadvantage, poverty or debt
  • Homelessness or poor housing
  • Caring for a family member or friend
  • A long-term physical health condition
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Domestic violence or other abuse as an adult
  • Significant trauma as an adult, such as military combat, being involved in a serious accident or being the victim of a violent crime
  • Physical causes – for example, a head injury or a condition such as epilepsy can have an impact on behaviour and mood (it is important to rule out causes such as this before seeking further treatment for a mental health problem)
  • Genetic factors – researchers are currently investigating whether there might be a genetic cause of various mental health problems, but there is no clear evidence yet
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