Life With Mental Health, Counseling Help & Fighting Stigma in Portland
Webster defines mental health as “The condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental illness and by adequate adjustment, especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and the ability to meet demands of daily life.” Additionally, according to The World Health Organization, mental health includes “Subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential.”
In these definitions, the message is largely about stress, which directly impacts how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. Stress can refer to big traumas or even small traumas that disrupt our daily activity and ability to function. It creates a lens, or filter, for how we deal and cope with various situations.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ADDRESSING MENTAL HEALTH
Often, our coping mechanisms become skewed, and we find ourselves even more overwhelmed, with a warped sense of self as a result. People can slip into a mindset of being inadequate, bad, or invisible. How often do we allow these mindsets to linger and settle in our psyche? What is the normal response to talking about and managing our stress? “Just deal with it;” “I don’t have time to think about that stuff;“ or “I have to keep moving”: Society, media, and even our families may tell us how we should be and what we should be doing. But we may rarely be instructed in the intricate steps for achieving these goals.
We are told to achieve, to obtain; but if we do not care for ourselves, how do we maintain motivation or momentum to do so?
HOW PROFESSIONALS CAN HELP
During Mental Health Awareness Month, it is our duty as professionals to get the word out about how self-care, which leads to self-actualization (the top tier in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to be healthy and happy) is a priority, and it is necessary!
We can do this by highlighting various concerns that arise when mental health is not addressed. We can use social media as a vehicle and platform to promote ways in which people can implement positive coping skills and learn how to identify when they may need to implement them.
Social media can also be used to advertise when and where support groups may occur or agencies that may be able to support a person who might need help addressing their mental health.
Taking care of ourselves allows us to understand our roles within our families, communities, and more importantly, within the community of the Self. How do we get the word out that it is okay to acknowledge, accept, and make agreements with Self and others to work on improving our state of existence? Mental Health Awareness Month is one way! It is about just that: making it acceptable to breathe. Making it acceptable to stop and address all those stressors that impact our self-worth and allow us to doubt our abilities.
Where do people go to “breathe” or catch a break from reality? Churches and other religious or community centers are a few places! Professionals could speak at local community centers through holding a seminar once a week or handing out pamphlets. They might even place a flyer on community bulletin boards to bring attention and awareness to mental health.
Barber shops and hair salons can serve the community in the same way. Many people come to these spaces to gain insight and gain acceptance. They may often engage in banter that promotes thought and facilitates change. People in these places could be more likely to pick up a pamphlet that’s left around.
FIGHTING MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA
If we do not address our mental health, it can decline into mental illness. Most people do not understand or know the difference between mental health and mental illness. Part of what we can do as professionals is educate the public on these differences and how one can be related to the other. During this month, we can highlight the difference!
We can speak to people about how to address both mental health and mental illness. As people may often try to avoid these topics, in such a forum as Mental Health Awareness Month, they can gain information without “outing” themselves.
As identified previously, if people do not address their mental health or stress, the symptoms can become harder to control, hide, or contain. They may slip out in ways that can be embarrassing, harmful to self and others, and detrimental to employment, relationships, and even physical health. These are the pitfalls of allowing stress to grow without being managed or supported.
No matter what stage of change (pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, relapse) you may be in, having better understanding can help! The more we put the word out there and dispel the stigma associated with mental health, the better we can aid people in propelling themselves into possibly and the next phase of change.
Mental health is still, in some communities, seen as an excuse or as not real. Other times, it is misunderstood or not even acknowledged. Our job, not just in the month of May, but every day, is to increase the general understanding of how mental health is a real thing that people struggle to cope with and gain control of.