World Mental Health Day is commemorated every year on 10 October with the overall aim of raising public awareness to make issues related to mental health a global priority. This year, the theme is “Back to Basics”, which aims to bring awareness to the various types of mental health illnesses people experience.
ast two years of living in a pandemic has made many people realise that stress, isolation and uncertainty have taken a toll on their well-being. Since the start of the pandemic more and more people have started talking about their mental health. Good mental health is experienced differently by different people as it is complex and is not just the result of an absence of mental disorders.
Mental health plays a very significant role in your well-being. When you are mentally healthy you’re able to enjoy your life and the people in it, you feel good about yourself, you keep up good relationships and can deal with stress. According to Mental Health societies, it’s very normal for your health to shift over time as you face various difficulties in your life. Creating positive habits is a great way to support your mental health and help you weather the hard times.
To help you keep on track, we’ve listed some pointers to help you identify signs of a healthy mind and ways to offer support to someone who faces symptoms of a mental health condition.
Signs your mental health is in good shape are:
- You are optimistic.
- You can set goals and achieve them.
- You feel good about yourself.
- You have good self-esteem.
- You are confident when faced with new situations or people.
- You do not always blame yourself.
Ways you can improve your mental health:
- Stay positive. In the midst of a stressful situation try to remain calm and positive.
- Practice gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal and jot down all the things you are grateful for each day.
- Take care of your physical health. Good physical health is connected to good mental health: a healthy body makes for a healthy mind.
- Connecting with others. Making meaningful connections with people who are positive and supportive improves your outlook on life.
- Develop a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Wake up hopeful and go to bed grateful.
On the other hand, people who are in good mental health can often overlook or minimise the struggles of others. It’s important to keep in mind that mental health is like any other health issue – just because you don’t have the flu, doesn’t mean that someone suffering through it is not having a hard time.
Many people struggling with mental illnesses feel withdrawn and embarrassed about their mental health condition due to the stigma surrounding mental health. The truth is that, because mental illnesses are brain-focused conditions that affect our thinking and emotions it is very common to experience some form of mental health problem in our lives. It is far from uncommon.
To help support someone who may be struggling with their mental health, start by avoiding these or similar phrases:
- “Snap out of it.”
- “It’s all in your head.”
- “But you have such a great life, you always seem so happy.”
- “Everyone’s a little down/moody/OCD sometimes – it’s normal.”
- “This too shall pass.”
- “Come on! Things could be worse.”
- “Have you tried chamomile tea?”
It is important to pay attention to sudden changes in thoughts and behaviours in your loved ones. Try to identify repeated cycles of confused thinking, prolonged depression, social withdrawal and excessive substance abuse and offer your support by creating a safe environment for them to talk about their feelings. Encourage them to get professional help should it be necessary, and make suggestions for good psychologists or therapists you might know of. Be cautious not to judge and instead offer your support by making recommendations to lifestyle changes and by being a positive anchor, extend this care to loved ones, colleagues and even strangers.
But don’t forget, your own mental health is your top priority. While you can help your friends and family, it’s important not to give so much of yourself that your own mental health is affected. Rest, look after yourself, ask for help if you need it. By following these guidelines, you can build a happy and safe environment for yourself and your family.