What is Mental Health?
Mental illnesses affect everyone in some point in their lives. Our mental health impacts how we feel, think, and/or act, it influences all aspects of our life. Mental Health affects how we handle stress and how we deal with our relationship with family, friends, or co-workers. It also impacts our physical health and is an important part of a healthy living which starts from childhood and continues through our adolescence and adulthood. Many factors contribute to out mental health including, biological factors, trauma or abuse and other life experiences, and our family's history of mental health. By educating ourselves and others, we can create a safe and non-judgemental society for ourselves, our families and our friends. Let's look at some facts.
The World Health Organization estimates that by year 2020, depression will be the second leading disability causing disease in the world; labelling the dramatic increase a "global depression pandemic" (Mental Health Social Support). We all experience changes in our mood. Having a low mood may be associated with depression or other mental illnesses. Depression can mean differently to different people. If we have a bad day, we may say we are depressed. On the other hand, we may suffer from a depressed mood that impacts our daily routine. The onset of depression can occur after an event such as, giving birth, death of loved ones, or other major life events. In other instances, depression can have no immediately identifiable root cause. The low mood associated with depression can pass by in a day or two, or persist for weeks, months, or even years. The long lasting depression could change the way we feel, and have an impact on our relationships, work, and our day to day life. This mental illness may leave us feeling hopeless, lethargic, and in some cases suicidal. Depression can impact children, adults, and elderly in different way. In some cases, depression may need medical attention, and in other cases, counselling and psychotherapy may help maintain our mental health.
Our anxiety and Feeling nervous or worried is normal at times, and can be helpful. Long time ago, our anxiety warned us of an imminent threat such as the possibility of a dangerous animal being close by. Our body responded to the anxiety by producing hormones that prepared the body to fight or flight (or freeze). In modern society, we still have anxieties in our day to day life. Even though, the nature of anxieties has changed, our bodies respond the same. In some instances, our anxiety can be a helpful feeling. It still can warn us of danger or motivate us. At some point, it may get out of hand and change into unexpected or unhelpful anxiety that may seriously impacts our lives, including how we think, feel, and act. Through counselling you can put things in perspective and come up with a plan to mange your anxiety. In sever cases, you may need medication. Please consult your physician if your anxiety it impacting your day to day life.
Every body has felt angry at some point in their lives. Anger is, typically, a secondary negative emotion that researchers say has a higher negative physical effect on a person’s heart than any other negative emotions. However, the problem is not entirely with anger itself, but rather with prolonged hostility.
A secondary emotion means that there is usually another emotion hiding underneath the anger, which could be fear or sadness. For example, if a person jumps the line and is ahead of you, after having waited 45 minutes for your turn, it would be understandable that this could make you angry. But what is underlying the angry reaction? Your thought pattern might look something like this: “Who does he think he is? Can’t he see that there is a line?” Without realizing it, you might feel angry that your needs were overlooked, or that you are invisible to others, but underneath the anger is the sadness that nobody cares about my needs and what is important to me…am I invisible? Anger is a sort of cover up for protecting more vulnerable feelings, and thus we react.
Of late there seem to be mixed messages about how to deal with anger. On the one hand, the experts suggest that supressing anger is not helpful, but on the other hand, research has shown that venting and letting off steam, may not be the best way to deal with anger either. So, what do we do? Distraction and allowing yourself to cool down are good ways to deal with anger, and preventing major damage to our hearts and nervous system. A Harvard Medical School study showed that being angry more than doubled the risk of cardiac arrest in people who already had pre existing heart conditions. Chronic anger can be a death sentence if you allow it to, but fortunately, you can change. With supportive and non-judgemental counselling, a person can feel safe enough to explore the underlying reasons for chronic anger and hostility, and thus create positive change in their life.
Loss and grief
Loss is an inevitable part of life, and can be one of the most stressful experiences a human being can go through. Grief is a reaction to the losses we experience. A person will often see their GP about depression-like symptoms, without realizing that they are actually reacting to a loss in their life. It is important to understand that sadness and depression are a normal reaction after having experienced a significant loss. The death of a loved one, moving to a different city, losing a job, parents with an empty nest, a serious illness, divorce, etc are all reasons for which a person can grieve. Sadness and depression are not the only normal grief reactions. A person can feel angry, hurt, resentful, resigned, numb, irritable, demotivated, anxious and lose the ability to concentrate too. Men, women, and different cultures may react differently to loss, and some people even feel relief and peace after a loss.
How long does the grieving period last? Each response and experience is different, and many consider up to two years of grieving as a healthy duration, but sometimes it may take longer, according to the nature of the loss.
What is an appropriate way to grieve? There is no right or wrong answer, because every person is different. However, behavior such as drinking, using drugs, and promiscuity are typically self-destructing, and will not allow for healthy grieving. Even though the pain of loss can at times seem unbearable, numbing the pain or always avoiding any negative feelings only serve to make the pain endure for longer periods of time. Although it seems contradictory, embracing the sadness, hurt, anger, guilt and pain will help the person move forward in their mourning, instead of prolong the pain. Some people need extra support from a mental health professional during grieving especially when the loss was sudden, frightening, or traumatic. The healing process is not linear, but more similar to cycles. If you feel or know someone who is stuck in a cycle, talking to a counsellor may help you move forward in your healing process.