It is common practice to have at least a yearly check-up with your general practitioner. No one would question you for taking time to have a physical examination of your health. This is what any responsible health conscious person would do. We understand that our physical wellbeing is important and must be monitored. We are aware that over the course of a year our bodies have changed, we have added a good deal of mileage to ourselves. If it was your car, you would take it in to the garage for an oil change, and to make sure everything still checks out fine. This is a logical practice. Why is it then that we do not afford the same sort of care to our mental health?
There is so much more as a society that we can do to prevent the development of mental illness, but because of social stigma surrounding mental health, nobody seeks help. Therapy and other similar mental health practices are seen as almost deviant by anyone who has never been through it. Most people wait until their breaking point, using therapy as a last resort instead of a preventative measure. It will take a shift in the way mental health is viewed in order to change the overall state of mental health in today’s population.
When you want to strengthen your body, one might go to the gym on a weekly basis. To encourage healthy growth, people are taught to consume nutritious food. On a daily basis these are practices which can help physical growth and maintenance. In the same way, mental health practices can be easily incorporated into daily life. A bi-weekly or monthly meeting with a therapist can help with understanding one’s emotional state of self and also help to identify long term effects of mental illness. Keeping a hobby or some sort of creative outlet daily or weekly will help with maintaining emotional stability and increase cognitive capability. It is important to exercise mental strength just as much as the physical. Ignoring this part of yourself can lead to pent up anxiety, and unresolved mental strain.
Proactive people often take courses in first-aid training. This gives a good deal of the population basic training in dealing with crisis situations and helping with physical injuries. Fewer people know that you can also be trained in mental health first-aid. These first aid practices encourage a deeper understanding of mental health and train individuals in how to recognize and respond to crisis situations such as addiction withdrawal, panic attacks, or suicidal behaviour. When these scenarios occur around strangers or among family and friends it is potentially dangerous if no one knows how to respond to what could be a life or death situation.
I myself am certified in mental health first-aid. Thus far I have used the training I received to successfully prevent a suicide. I have also supported someone through their alcohol addiction and recovery. I have aided friends living with clinical depression, and I have proudly supported a transgender friend facing gender dysphoria and the accompanying anxiety and depression caused by societal strain and transphobia. I consider my experience with mental health first aid training invaluable.
In order to save the vast percentage of our population suffering with mental illness or who are unaware that they even they have a mental illness, the very way we view mental health must be turned on its head. Efforts must be made on everyone’s part to legitimize mental health as an important factor to overall human well-being. If it is continued to be ignored there will be catastrophic consequences for millions of sufferers the world over. By simply recognizing mental illness as a real issue, conscious efforts to combat it in daily life can be introduced. Changing the way we view mental health is only the first step.
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