Growing up I had no concept of mental health. We never talked about it in school, nor was it ever discussed by my faithful friends Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Ironically, I learned about suicide years before fully understanding the magnitude of mental health.
I studied AP psychology in high school and even with that under my belt I could tell you about the hippocampus and amygdala; I could tell you about neurons or different mental illnesses, but if you asked me how to take care of your mental health, a confused look may arise.
I took it one step further and studied Psychology in college. I flooded my course load with Abnormal Psych, Statistics, Child Development, psychology classes galore. I could tell you about the interesting theories of Freud, Pavlov, Maslow; I could tell you characteristics of the id, ego, and superego. I could talk your ears off about the repercussions of childhood trauma, but as of recently, I couldn’t fully grasp mental health as it pertains to the general public.
That my friends, that is where the problem lies.We all have mental health, similarly to how we all have physical health. However, what is interesting is how many people automatically associate mental health with mental illness. When you think of physical health do you automatically think of diabetes? Typically no; you view physical health as a spectrum composed of various areas such as nutrition and fitness. Mental health also lies on a spectrum, it is composed of various areas such as how we handle stress, how we interact with one another, etc.
This is important to understand because the people who have cancer or diabetes should not be the only people concerned with their physical health. We all need to be conscious of our physical health similarly to how we all need to be conscious of our mental health, regardless of if we have an illness or not.
Especially given the climate of today: between a pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of people, systemic racism oozing out of our "Great American" foundation; All the while, covert racism trying to shove it back down to pretend it doesn't exist, and the overload of unjust deaths of innocent people by bad cops. It is as if our mental health is playing with fire while on a tightrope.
So let's break it down, what is mental health exactly?
Below is my favorite definition because it addresses the common misconception that mental health means we must always be “positive,” and also highlights how mental health is continuously changing as we experience different ages. This is the proposed definition written by the World Psychiatric Association
Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express and modulate one's own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind represent important components of mental health which contribute, to varying degrees, to the state of internal equilibrium.
You may be thinking... english, please. We completely understand, so we decided to break it down and simplify it Perspective style. Below are some questions to ask yourself to understand your current mindset a little better.
How often do you check in with yourself?
How often do you observe your actions?
How often are you stressed?
How do you handle stress?
In general, what is your coping mechanism style?
How much power do other people's opinions have over you?
How is your general outlook on the world?
What is your relationship like when it comes to your purpose?
On a scale of 1-10 how in charge do you feel over your own life?
Some advice. It may seem foreign to you but you have to check in with yourself, periodically. Observe your actions, observe your emotions, observe your frequent thoughts. Write it down. If you notice something is wrong take note, seek professional help when need be. Nothing is set in stone, and you do not have to believe every thought you have. Learn how to value yourself, say "no" to things that may disrupt your journey to mental wellness. Create space for you, speak up, and know your worth being heard. Get in tune with your purpose. Develop a strong active coping mechanism. If your view on life is a little dark all the time, as difficult as it may seem, try to find the positive. When difficult times arise or stressful situations occur, take all the time you need to heal and to properly deal. If things suck, acknowledge that they suck, don't try to turn it into something it is not, do not suppress it will just be build up. Process every emotion fully, but make sure you do not create suffering as your new home. Thanks to negativity bias and confirmation bias, naturally we are more likely to focus on the negative, and then find evidence that supports preconceived negative notions. So just be mindful of that. Keep in mind, learned helplessness is a real thing.
I could literally go on for days but this is the first blog post so future ones will dissect these concepts and many more to come. This is literally the tip of the iceberg. Weekly we will explore different concepts from iconic past and present Psychologists such as Individuation by Carl Jung, Ryff's Six Factor Model of Psychological Wellbeing, Carl Roger’s Fully Functioning Person, and thousands more. The list is extensive, to say the least, but it is all centered around introducing different Perspectives and encouraging us all to be conscious of what we feed our minds, and how we can improve.