Risk factors that can compromise mental wellness

At the dawn of a new year, much is made about the popularity of resolutions focusing on improving physical fitness. While it’s important to be physically fit, a new year also marks a great time to examine one’s mental wellness.

The World Health Organization defines mental wellness as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her society.” Men and women who are mentally unwell may find it difficult if not impossible to achieve their other goals, including those pertaining to their physical fitness.

No one is immune to mental health problems, which the American Mental Wellness Association notes are never the result of a single risk factor. Many people whose mental wellness has been compromised are dealing with a variety of risk factors. The AMWA breaks down those risk factors into four categories: biophysical, psychological, social, and spiritual. Learning these risk factors can help people learn more about themselves and might even compel them to seek help before their mental wellness is compromised.


· Family history of mental health problems

· Complications during pregnancy or birth

· Personal history of traumatic brain injury

· Chronic medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes. Hypothyroidism or other brain-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, also can compromise mental wellness

· Use of alcohol or drugs

· Poor nutrition

· Lack of sleep


· Stressful life situations, such as financial problems or breaking the law

· Traumatic life experiences, such as rape or serving in the armed forces

· Low self-esteem, perceived incompetence and/or a negative view of life

· Poor academic achievement


· Being abused or neglected as a child

· Being in an abusive relationship or friendship

· Having few friends or few healthy relationships

· Recent loss, either by death, divorce or other means

· Bullying; both victims of bullying and perpetrators can be at risk for mental health problems

· Growing up, or currently living, in poverty

· Poor social skills, poor communication skills

· Discrimination

· Lack of access to support services


· Perception of being irredeemable or inherently flawed beyond repair

· Perception of insignificance

· Conflicting thoughts or doubts surrounding deep religious beliefs

The good news for people who think their mental wellness has been compromised is that various treatments are available. Talk therapy or speaking with a peer who has had similar life experiences can help some people as they confront problems regarding their mental wellness. Information about additional treatments, including specialized therapies, is available at www.americanwellness.org.

Fitness goals are popular New Year’s resolutions. But the start of a new year also marks a great time to consider one’s mental wellness.