October 16, 2016

The Reality Of Addressing Mental Health For Yourself And Others All Year Long

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This week has been especially important for addressing mental health, as October 10th was World Mental Health Day. This day serves as a reminder to keep your mental well-being as a major priority in life.

The overarching reason for observing Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues and increase efforts that support mental well-being. This means addressing the mental health needs of yourself, and others around the world.

Mental illness is something that affects a huge number of people in the world. The National Alliance on Mental Illness points out the following important information about mental health:

“Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.”

In addition to this:

“Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (10 million, or 4.2%) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. 1 in 5 youth aged 13 to 8 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8 to 15, the estimate is 13%.”

In terms of world’s current mental health status, a resource by the World Health Organization (WHO) states that:

“One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”

In addition to this, there are many barriers that exist for countries outside of the U.S. when it comes to seeking help:

“Currently, more than 40% of countries have no mental health policy and over 30% have no mental health programme. Around 25% of countries have no mental health legislation.”

Mental illness is something that the entire world is facing, and days like World Mental Health Day help bring extra attention to this widespread, worldly issue.

Addressing Your Needs

The busy, fast-paced lives we live sometimes hinder our ability to slow down and take care of ourselves.

But keeping our own needs in mind is crucially important. Self-care is a gateway to maintaining good cognitive health. We must start by addressing our own needs and keeping those needs at the forefront of our thoughts.

A resource by Case Western University gives an absolutely spot-on definition of self-care:

“Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.”

Being overly selfless and concerning yourself with the problems of others, rather than focusing on your own, can be problematic. The above definition of self-care is important because it explains that caring for yourself is by no means a selfish thing to do.

In my article titled ‘Make Self-Care Your Priority in 2016’, I point out several questions that you can ask yourself when you feel like you’ve placed your needs on the backburner.

● Are all of my basic needs addressed?
● Am I thirsty? Am I hungry?
● What exact emotions are keeping me from self-help? Is it depression, anxiety, or something else?
● Would exercising today make me feel better?
● Did I make enough time for myself over the course of my work week?
● What can I do to feel more secure?
● Am I worried about money? If so, what can I do?
● Does my life lack structure? What can I do to feel more organized?
● Do I have an optimistic view on my life? How can I show myself the glass is half full?
● When did I last feel excited?
● Do I feel unattractive?
● Am I missing someone?

Asking yourself these questions can help you pinpoint the sources of a lack of self-care.

While these questions are useful, sometimes outside help is necessary in order to get back on track. Always remember, that there’s no shame in asking for help! A close friend, relative, or health professional such as a counselor can be the support system you may need.

The Mental Well-Being of Others

Mental illness is very real in the U.S.–that is certain. Stigmas are still a major hurdle that keep people from getting the help they need. In fact, about 75% of Americans and Europeans don’t even seek the help they need due to stigmas.

But the fact remains: many people in the U.S. are fortunate enough to have access to help through counseling, medication, and support. Now imagine if that support simply didn’t exist at all.

Such is the reality for many people in other parts of the world.

The WHO resource mentioned earlier in this piece examines how difficult, or even impossible, it is for people in less privileged places to seek help with mental illness:

“The magnitude of mental health burden is not matched by the size and effectiveness of the response it demands. Currently, more than 33% of countries allocate less than 1% of their total health budgets to mental health, with another 33% spending just 1% of their budgets on mental health. A limited range of medicines is sufficient to treat the majority of mental disorders. About 25% of countries, however, do not have the three most commonly prescribed drugs used to treat schizophrenia, depression and epilepsy at the primary health care level.”

So how can we help other countries in need?

Well, once we are on the track to mental well-being ourselves, we can donate our time or resources to local or international charities for mental health. The Centre for Global Mental Health has a resource featuring many prolific charities that you can donate to.

Just remember to address your cognitive health first, and when you’re ready, there’s always a way you can donate something, thus making the path to wellness more feasible to others around the globe. TC mark

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