World Mental Health Day, the theme for 2019 is mental health promotion and suicide prevention.
Here are some facts about mental health that should serve as a wake-up call:
- One in seven Indonesians has experienced some form of mental health issue at some point in life.
- There are 15.6 million Indonesians who suffer from depression. Only 8 percent seek professional help, as reported by Detik.
- There are about 800,000 people per year in the world whose cause of death is suicide, according to the World Health Organization in 2016. This equals to one person every 40 seconds.
There are three steps for checking your mental health: knowing the definition of mental health, understanding the mental health continuum and recognizing the early signs of mental health problems.
What is mental health?
We will begin with the definition of mental health. WHO defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make contributions to his or her own community”.
These are the keywords:
- Understanding our own potential,
- Can cope with normal stresses of life,
- Can work productively and fruitfully,
- Able to make contributions to our community.
Did you just check all the bullet points above? Or did you miss one or two?
Mental health is fundamental for us humans as we think, emote and interact with each other, to maintain a state of equilibrium. It is pivotal yet challenging, especially in this age of stress, anxiety and depression. It is natural that we tend to go off-balance at times. However, it is fine to seek help.
Mental health continuum
According to American psychologist Gordon Allport, mental health and illness are two poles of a linear sequence and keep moving throughout a lifetime.
There are distinct markers within the mental health continuum: the healthy point and the problem point.
People who lie at the healthy point are generally satisfied and happy in their lives. They are emotionally well-balanced, stable and goal-oriented.
The problem point, meanwhile, is the mid-range of the continuum. People who lie at this point may show some distress and inability to cope, but can perform daily life functions.
The disorder point is the end of the continuum. People falling under this category are unable to cope with stress and exhibit significant changes in their thoughts, behavior and actions.
Where do you stand in this mental health continuum? Remember that anyone can experience mental health issues at any point in time, irrespective of gender, age and ethnicity. We need to understand we can fall from a healthy point to a problem point if we aren’t able to cope with these issues in a healthy manner. It can even lead to a disorder point. Just as we realize we are stepping into a problem point, it is better to seek help in the initial stages and get back to our healthy state.
Early warning signs of deteriorating mental health
These are some of the signs that show we are heading toward the problem point. Being aware of these signs helps before we suffer further damage:
- Fluctuations in sleep patterns, causing disruption in waking periods,
- Major changes in eating habits,
- Inability to perform daily tasks,
- Experiencing severe mood swings,
- Detachment from reality, feelings of delusions,
- Problems with alcohol and drug abuse,
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness,
- Feeling confused, constant worry, fear and anxiety that cause impairment of normal functioning,
- Having relationship issues with people at home, work and with friends,
- Withdrawal from family and friends.
Vital steps to protect mental health
Looking after one’s mental health is an ongoing process. These steps below help in safeguarding your mental health:
- Try therapy:
Meeting a mental health professional helps you identify, address issues, deal with day to day issues better and helps in becoming competent. An absence of illness doesn’t mean you are fully functioning. Therapy helps you progress.
- Get a mental health check-up:
Mental health check-ups help you gain a better picture of yourself and relationship styles with the help of tools, tests, assessments and reports. It is beneficial, just like a physical health check-up.
- Practice self-care:
Self-care means paying attention to your emotions and giving care and attention to them. The specific activities that help with emotional processing will vary between individuals but could include journaling, drawing, talking about your stress to a friend or therapist, praying or spiritual practice, dancing, exercise or listening to music.
- Take daily break rituals:
Carve out small chunks of time when you are focused on doing something that renews your mind, body and soul. It can be singing in the car, brisk walks, deep breathing – anything that provides you respite and gives you momentum along the way.
- Upskilling on emotions:
Education on emotions debunks myths like “emotions are just for weak people” and we can control our suffering with “mind over matter”. Our educational institutions should facilitate skills for managing relationships and interpersonal conflicts. Parenting workshops and stress management activities in workplaces are ways of psycho-educating people and society all over the world.
Mental health well-being is a universal concern and safeguarding ourselves and keeping checks on our mental condition help us feel, think and act better. It also helps us to identify and help our loved ones too to stay mentally healthy. Mental health monitoring is as important as physical health. Take a step forward by being in favor of mental health check-up plans, policies, promotions and treatments.
Don’t forget, your mental health is as important as your physical health. It is not to be undermined, but to be nurtured for you and the people around you to have a good life. (dev/wng)