Updated: Oct 21, 2020
First of all, I want to wish everyone "Happy World Mental Health Day".
But why do we even have a day for mental health and how is it even significant?
When I talk to you about mental health, at least 50-60 percentage of you will be thinking about depression, anxiety, therapy or something darker. This is the concept that got stuck to our minds 'cause of television, media, confusing messages and so on.
Being a psychology student researcher and a psychiatric social worker, I think it is my duty to clear to you what mental health exactly means or at least what it is according to me.
According to the World Health Organization, Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
Keyes (2003) says Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness. We mostly think that the presence or absence of mental illness marks our mental health, but the definition above clearly says it is a state of well-being which helps in the realisation of individual potential. Also, the well-being of a person is defined by him/her and is subjective in nature and everyone has the right to do anything (only legal) to maintain personal mental health.
We live in a modern society with stressors and problems everywhere, but when we can cope up with all these difficulties and move forward then we are called as mentally healthy. How these stressors affect a person's mental health depends on many factors like personality, the intensity of the stressor, situation, genetics etc. But, retaining the mental health differs from one person to the other and some of us cope up using different measures and some show "abnormal" behaviours and thoughts. That is when we say bring the word "Mental illness".
Mental illness which is marked by disturbing thoughts, emotions and behaviours include many conditions. Not all mental illness is serious and incurable. Like any physical illnesses, mental disorders also have treatments and its' complications.
“If you are broken, you do not have to stay broken.”
— Selena Gomez 🌼
Treatments for mental illness
There are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. They are generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.
According to WHO, main mental disorders include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and autism. This is just a few among the variety of mental illnesses explained in the International Classification of Mental Disorders and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM–5)
After years of research and experiments, different treatments were found to reverse the effects of mental illnesses. Some of the effective treatment methods are:
Most of you must have heard about therapies! Therapies are getting famous and people are accepting the concept of therapy more than before. Therapy mostly includes an interactive session between a therapist and a client (a person presenting a problem) in which the therapist helps the client to help himself/herself. The most important point to be understood is that the therapist doesn't solve your problems, but just guide you to do the same for yourself. Depending on the severity of the problem and the type of therapy, there can be 6-12 sessions during the therapy process. Once you "fix" yourself, you might learn how to cope with similar stressors in the future.
Therapies are not done only when you have serious psychological or emotional problems alone, but you can do therapy even when you have mild stressors. It can help you in maintaining your mental health before any serious damage. There are different types of therapy like:
• Cognitive- behavioural therapy
• Behavioural therapy
• Humanistic therapy
• Family/ group/ couple therapy
Some new forms of therapies like:
• Arts therapy
• Drama therapy
• Dance therapy
• Animal-assisted therapy etc.
Thanks to medical developments! We do have different medications due to the clinical breakthroughs occurring on a regular basis. There are different classes of medications for treating different types of mental disorders. This treatment should be approached by someone if and only if he/she faces great difficulties due to the mental illness. These drugs will have major effects on the brain and can even have mild to severe side effects. Always, treating severe mental disorders by psychoactive drugs and one form of therapy simultaneously can be more effective. Different psychoactive drugs classifications are:
• Antipsychotic drugs
• Antianxiety drugs
Electro convulsive therapy or "the shock treatment" is also used in the treatment of severe mental disorders. This is a very rare process these days as it comes with severe side effects and it is applied only in the cases of severe depression or patients with severe psychotic symptoms.
Mindfulness practice is not a treatment in particular, but it is a way to promote and improve psychological well-being. This can be practised by anyone including a person with mild to moderate mental illness. Mindfulness is the quality of being completely aware of the present. It is a state of being and as the word says, we are "mindful" about the present in a non-judgemental way. New age therapies like Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) incorporate mindfulness in psychotherapy and has proven to be very effective and helps in avoiding the second occurance of mental illness. It helps in staying in the present rather than worrying about the past or being worked up thinking of the future. This practice has shown improvements among many people with emotional, physical and mental disturbances.
Many therapists include mindfulness in their therapy process to help the client to focus on the present.
Here are some easy mindfulness practices you could practice at home.
Yoga is a holistic system of exercise that incorporates multiple mind-body practices for mental and physical health. Yoga is not just about different poses/asanas, but, yoga includes various breathing techniques, deep relaxation practices, meditation techniques, good attitudes towards life and thoughtful behaviours. The benefits of these practices are immense, added to that, deep relaxation and breathwork result in reduction of stress, depression, hormone imbalance, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep problems and other disorders. Many studies conclude this finding, also yoga and meditation are getting popular in the west due to the same reasons.
Practising yoga daily can have a great impact on life and helps in having better mental health by enhancing well-being, inner peace and the mind-body connection.
5. Physical activity
Any physical activity like exercise, dance, tai-chi, walkig, running, cycling etc, all have a great impact on mental health and can be used along with other treatment menthods. Patients who engage themselves in such activities find better improvement. Physical activities help us in managing daily stress and other problems. Mind and body are connected in an unseen way and studies show that exercise can enhance your mood and give you a positive mind. Scientists have also found that mild-moderate depression can have the same benefits from exercise as from psychopharmaceutical medicines. Here are some home exercise ideas.
This is another rarely used procedure among patients with severe mental illnesses and used as a last resort. It comes with serious risks. An important newly developed surgery treatment that was found for a severe and chronic mental health problem is Deep Brain Simulation which involves stimulation of brain electrically. Although this is a rare procedure, it helps a small majority of patients who do not respond to other treatment methods.
“Increasing the strength of our minds is the only way to reduce the difficulty of life.”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana🧘🏼♀️
These are some of the most effective treatment methods for mental illnesses, but the fact anyone should understand is mental health is not just about different mental disorders. It is a state of emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Although, due to the disease-inclined outlook towards life, there are chances of just assuming that someone is depressed or suffering from anxiety or having OCD. It is always advised to seek help within family or friends, if that doesn't work lookout for professional help. There are many trained professionals like clinical psychologists, counsellors, social workers who can be approached for help. Only if they refer medications, you should approach psychiatric doctors.
We celebrate mental health to spread the awareness of good mind-body health, to normalise mental illness and to remove social stigma. Also, when you educate yourself, be sure you get the right knowledge.
During this pandemic, the mental health of many got effected and that's why the theme of 2020 World Mental Health Day is Mental Health For All.
Have a responsible and good World Mental Health Day.
Stay safe. 🥰