Foundation of mental health refers to a few basic and significant factors on which mental health of any individual depends. These factors are as follows:
(a) Heredity or hereditary factors.
(b) Physical factors.
(c) Fundamental social forces as the home, the school, the neighbor-hood and the community.
(d) Satisfaction of basic or fundamental needs in childhood.
It provides the raw material, or the potentialities of the individual. It sets the limits for his mental health. What the individual inherits is the potentialities in relation to growth appearance, intelligence and the like. The development and utilisation of these potentialities is determined, to a large extent, by the environmental opportunities.
Investigations have shown that heredity may predispose a person to the development of a particular type of mental illness when he is placed under excessive stress. Even in psychoneuroses and psychopathic personality trends, heredity factors may play some role. In the production of a number of the mentally defective and feeble-minded hereditary factors are quite prominent.
In the words of Wallin, “defective heredity may furnish a fertile soil for the development of mental and nervous diseases but so far as minor personality maladjustments are concerned, heredity supplies only a predisposing condition”.
(b) Physical Factors:
Physical factors make a significant contribution to mental health. An erect posture, a winning smile, colour in the cheeks, a feeling of exhilaration promote a sense of personality security and have a marked influence on other people. People with greater strength, better looks and robust health enjoy a social advantage in the development of personality characteristics.
An individual with a feeling of physical well-bring ordinarily enjoys a good disposition and is enthusiastic and intellectually alert. He has a desire to live, to achieve and to be happy. Nobody can deny that physical health improves mental vitality in as much as it increases motivation and drive. It has been observed that continued hunger, over work or sleeplessness produce fatigue, and that may affect our mental health adversely.
Sick people find it more difficult to make adjustments to new situations than healthy people. Vitamin deficiencies have been found to be the causative factors in many personality difficulties. In pernicious anaemia, For example, there occurs a deficiency of red corpuscles and this produces characteristic symptoms of apathy, irritability, depression and anxiety.
Again, person suffering from serious defects may have problems of adjustment, on account of interiority feelings which they have not been able to deal with adequately. Positively speaking, the individual who follows a hygienic regimen, pertaining to food, drink, elimination, bathing, physical activity, work, sleep, rest, relaxation, prevention of disease and correction of defects, is more likely to have good mental health.
(c) Social Factors:
Social factors pertain to the individual’s society in which he lives, the interactional processes, and his social functioning with other persons. The social environment shapes the knowledge, the skills, interests, attitudes, habits, values and goals that he acquires. Every individual is born into a society which influences the content of his behaviour.
Of the social factors, the most important are the home, the school and the community. Let us consider the home first. Parents who give affection and security to their children contribute to their mental health. Parents who are nervous, tense or self-centred, over-protective rejecting, domineering or inconsistent in disciplinary practices or who are partial in dealing with their children are laying the foundations of mental inadequacy or ill-health.
On the other hand, parents who share their life and time with their family and children, who show interest in the development of their children, play with them or work with them, help them to develop mentally healthy attitudes.
Broken homes or unstable homes where parents are in constant conflict produce a large percentage of children with adjustment problems. A good home, on the other hand, where there is a harmonious relationship between parents, where parents understand the needs and interests of their children and where there is an atmosphere of happiness and freedom, contributes greatly to the mental health of every member.
The school can also develop a sense of personal worth, social growth and social competence, if its experiences are satisfying and if they evoke affectional responses. A good school provides an atmosphere in which each pupil is respected as an individual. It provides a curriculum enriched by activities, meeting and needs and interests of pupil’s co-curricular activities such as dramatics, athletics, debates which promote the physical and emotional development of its pupils. Such a school is a positive factor in the development of sound mental health.
The community provides the framework and climate within which the family lives and develops. It ought to provide, therefore, a healthy atmosphere and a well-organised network of public and private community services of the highest possible quality. These services will satisfy such needs as those of love and affection, will give to its members a feeling of belongingness, and will provide opportunities for group anticipation and for emotional release.
Some of these community services could be libraries and reading-rooms for the general public, social education centres, and well round recreational programmes, vocational and educational guidance bureaus for youth, child-guidance clinics, Bal- bhavans, hospitals for the mentally and physically ill, arrangements for family counselling like family- life institutes, maternity and child welfare centres in the urban and rural areas.
(d) Satisfaction of fundamental or basic needs:
Mental health in childhood and later depends very much on the adequate satisfaction of our fundamental or basic needs. These are physical as well as emotional or psychological. The organic of physical needs are to be satisfied for maintaining physical well-being “Hunger, thirst, fatigue, lack of sleep, physical pain, exercise, heat or cold and the like set up certain tensions in the individual which must be relieved.”
Psychological or emotional needs are also called ‘ego needs’ which must be satisfied to maintain “self. They are as important as the organic needs. There are two main ego needs. Firstly, we have the need for a sense of security thought love and affection of those who are important to us — our parents, our friends and our fellow men. We wish to have a warm and satisfying relationship with other people.
This feeling of security mostly comes through love which consists of such elements as understanding, trust, cooperation and overt affection. The child feels secure when, he is assured that his parents care for him, want him and accept him as he is. Accepted in this way and the child can establish healthy relationship with the world outside. To the person with a feeling of security, the world is a friendly and safe place. Such a person likes people and feels comfortable with them.
The second ego need is for recognition or regard as a person of worth and importance. The adequate satisfaction of this need gives a sense of adequacy, a feeling of self-enhancement. In order that this need is satisfied in the child, parents and others have to demonstrate their affection and their approval and evince in what the child does. Once the child has a feeling of adequacy and importance, he will be able to cope with, and if possible, solve the problem which confronts him.
Other needs besides these two are the need to grow independently, the need to play and the need to belong to a group. The need to grow independently is often not properly satisfied in our homes. Our parents are mostly over-protective. They find satisfaction in their children remaining dependent on them forever. Generally, the youngsters are not allowed to think and decide for themselves.