10 of your biggest mental health questions answered


From spotting signs and how to talk to someone, Vitality Mental Health expert answers your burning questions on all thing's mental health

man suffering with mental health

What is mental health and why is it important?

Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It is what enables us to respond to the challenges of life and build psychological skills. 

Caring for our mental health is essential part of our health and wellbeing.

Our feelings, thoughts and actions all play a part and by having the right support and tools in place, we can all live healthier lives. Everyone has physical and mental health and it’s helpful to understand that ‘mental health’ doesn’t mean ‘mental illness’.

How do I spot the signs of mental ill-health?

Identifying signs of mental health difficulties begins with becoming more self-aware. This will help us to recognise how we are feeling as well as what works and what doesn't when it comes to maintaining our psychological wellbeing.

Here are some signs and symptoms of mental ill-health we should be aware of:

  • Changes in how you feel about yourself, others or certain situations
  • Persistent feelings of negative emotions, such as sadness, hopelessness or guilt
  • Feeling socially withdrawn
  • Changing habits or routines into unhealthy ones
  • Physical pain
  • Poor sleep and fatigue

What are symptoms of depression and anxiety?

Depression is characterised by a few symptoms, the main one being low mood that persists for a long time in way that affects everyday life.

Anxiety is a feeling that can naturally arise in response to a stressful situation, although it can become a struggle if it persists after the situation has been resolved.

Symptoms can include digestive disturbances, aches and pains, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing along with feelings of uncertainty and worry.

They are the most common reasons for people to seek help too. VitalityHealth claims data found 56% of people accessed Talking Therapies to help with anxiety, while depression accounted for almost 20% of visits in 2021.


What treatments are available?

There are a variety of ways we can support our mental health; support groups, therapy, hospitalisation and medication where needed are just a few.

Self-care is another way to support your wellbeing, along with getting the diagnosis and right treatment if it is required.

Remember, you can discuss your mental health with a professional such as a GP or mental health professional, who will be able to direct you and refer you to the right support.

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) focuses on helping people with mental health triggers in the here and now.

This type of therapy helps you explore the ways you think, feel and behave, with the aim of identifying any unhelpful patterns. The idea is that by changing these automatic negative patterns, you can better manage challenging situations when they arise.

There are a range therapies that can help with your mental health. Read about them here.

Vitality members with our health insurance can access eight online or face-to-face Talking Therapies sessions per plan year. Treatments available Talking Therapies include counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Book your virtual or in-person Talking Therapies appointment through Care Hub or via the Vitality GP app.

Life members that notify us of a mental health-related claim can also get access to Talking Therapies through the Recovery Benefit as part of Income Protection. Terms & conditions apply.

You can also access everything you need to know about your plan via Member Zone or in the Vitality app.

How does stress affect us mentally and physically?

Stress is natural for all of us to experience; it is our response to something that requires attention or alters our system.

As well as affecting our bodies, stress impacts our thoughts and feelings, making us feel overwhelmed, anxious or in a rush to do things.

Bringing joy and calmness into our life even when things are difficult is an important way to balance out stress.

To reduce and manage stress techniques are available to calm our nervous system, such as physical activity and practicing breathing techniques.

Physically, a lot happens in our body when we’re feeling stress. We release adrenalin and cortisol, which travels around the body ensuring we have the energy to respond to any given situation. This responses is known as ‘fight or flight’.

Often, we can feel the involuntary physical effects, such as our heart beating fast, palms sweating and shortness of breath.

One way to counteract a 'stress response' is to use techniques that trigger our ‘rest and digest’ response. Such activities, such as like grounding techniques, meditation and mindfulness - can help to calm our nervous system.

What changes can I make to improve my mental health?

Our sleep, eating habits, how much we move our body, our community/social connections and finding joy are all key to our mental wellbeing.  


Sleeping 7-9 hours, having a sleep routine and sleeping away from noise and light is going to contribute to our wellbeing, also avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the hours before sleeping. 


Eating a balanced diet with nutritional foods (and at the right times) will have a crucial impact in our mood and wellbeing.  

Try not to skip meals and avoid cutting out foods that make you happy. Eat them in moderation if they are not too healthy for the body.  


Moving our body is incredibly beneficial for our mental health. Doing exercise in a way that works for you is important for our brain, body and mind. 


Cultivating healthy relationships and a good sense of community create a positive impact on our mental health. We are social beings and you do not need to deal with things on your own.  

Even when you feel you have no one to talk to, a charity like Samaritans or Mind can help – you are not alone.  

What is mindfulness and how do I do it?

Being mindful is about being fully engaged in the present moment in whatever it is we are doing, sensing or feeling without any interpretation or judgement.  

There are many scientifically proven benefits to practicing mindfulness. It can help to relieve stress and anxiety. It can also help to increase sleep, focus and concentration.  

From guided meditation apps to in-person classes, there are a variety of resources available to help individuals learn and practice mindfulness and meditation, such as Headspace.  

You can begin your Headspace journey today with Vitality. If you are a member with a qualifying health insurance and life insurance, you could get 12 months membership to Headspace on us.   

All you need to do is log into Member Zone for more details.

If you’d like to find out more about mindfulness and its benefits, you can read more below. 

How do I talk about my mental health difficulties?

It’s so important to start the conversation. Reach out to someone you trust, feel safe and comfortable with. This could be a partner, friend, family member, colleague, or mental health professional.

Sharing how you’re feeling may feel tough, but those you care about you want to help. Taking a moment to talk a big step towards supporting your mental health.

Seeking out support groups, whether that’s in-person or virtually. A group setting may feel less lonely and can be a way to connect with others going through a similar challenge.

Also, consider your environment. Think about where you have a conversation with that someone – for example, talking in the car can feel less informal and intimidating.

What could I say to someone who is feeling low?

The signs of mental ill-health may be different from one person to the other, so it’s often a good idea to check in with others to see what’s going on with them.  

What may be a sign of something for you, may not be for them, so try not to assume. Also be openminded to someone’s mood, thoughts or behaviours to create a safe space. 

One way in could be to start by talking about your own experiences to help break down any barriers and pave the way for a conversation about them. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable too is always a good place to start. 

At Vitality, we’re all about encouraging our members to make small positive lifestyle choices that can make a big impact to their lives. 

That’s why we offer partner benefits and rewards with a range of big brands when you get healthy. 

Log into Member Zone or visit vitality.co.uk to find out more.  

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