A New Approach To Mental Wellness

The best place to begin this discussion is by defining what wellness is and how it relates to mental health.

Wellness can be thought of as complete and general well-being. A balance of emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental health.

A willingness to take good care of one’s mental health means taking stock of feelings, emotions, stress levels, and coping mechanisms. It can even mean getting screened for mental illnesses the same way that you would for various physical illnesses.

One must fully embrace wellness in order to improve the mind, body, and spirit. This is what is needed in order to maximize your potential as a person so you can lead a full and productive life.

Wellness will also lead you to seek preventions for mental illness and substance abuse. Ultimately this can promote positive societal features such as a more productive economy, and solid family and community structures.

And why is this important?

  • Consider the fact that serious mental illnesses can lower life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.
  • Depending on your level of mental wellness, whether it is better or worse, it is important because it impacts your thoughts, behaviors and emotions.
  • Mental wellness can promote productivity and effectiveness in activities like work, school or caregiving.
  • It plays an important part in the health of your relationships.
  • Mental wellness allows you to adapt to changes in your life and cope with adversity.

To achieve mental wellness it is first necessary to understand mental illness. Some of the factors to consider include:

  • How prevalent it is
  • Who it affects including
    • At risk youth
    • First responders
    • The aged
    • Farmers and other agriculture workers
    • Military personnel
    • Women in all age groups
    • Middle aged males
    • People under increased economic stress
    • Those with less education
    • Individuals who are recently divorced or have suffered an equivalent loss
    • Anyone with a family history of depression
    • Members of specific ethnic groups
  • The consequences associated with it
    • Suicide
    • Substance abuse
    • Bullying
    • Victimization
    • Stigma
  • The costs of
    • Treatment
    • Lost Productivity
    • Disability
    • Insurance
    • Family disruption
    • Redirecting scarce financial resources from other programs in order to facilitate the treatment of mental illnesses
  • Unintended consequences
    • The disconnect between evidence and public perception of what mental illness actually is and what it is not
    • Negative thoughts which can lead to negative behavior such as not seeking necessary treatment
    • Avoidance of those with mental health problems
    • A belief that mental illness is rooted in genetics suggesting there may be nothing that can be done to prevent it.
  • And so much more

We also need to try to understand what causes mental illness in the first place. While there are a vast array of complex factors that can give rise to the onset of a mental or emotional illness these will vary by individual, background, environment and others. Furthermore, such conditions can be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors including:

  • Trauma
  • Age
  • Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, especially early in life.
  • An important loss early in life such as the loss of a parent, sibling, grandparent, care giver or other significant individual.
  • Neglect
  • Poor ability to relate to others
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Access to, and use of, social media platforms
  • Stress
  • Poor nutrition
  • Community
  • Social or cultural expectations such as eating disorders caused by the perception that thinness is an important aspect of beauty
  • Exposure to toxins such as lead, mercury and others
  • Genetics
  • Infections
  • Brain injuries
  • Substance abuse
  • Unemployment
  • Relationship issues
  • Death
  • Divorce
  • A dysfunctional family life
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Changing jobs or schools

And this list is far from exhaustive.

It’s extremely important that we discuss these topics. But more than discussion is needed.

Are you – or someone you care about – at risk of developing a mental illness? Are you already experiencing one? If so you should seek help immediately! If you’re not sure about the answers to either of the previous two questions a good place to start might be accessing one of our self assessment tools. You can find them here.

While these are not intended to replace an in depth diagnosis by a qualified medical practitioner they may help you to decide if this kind of follow up is warranted.

If you’re not sure whether your mental wellness is at an appropriate level consider the following questions.

  • Are you engaged with work, hobbies and activities and to what extent do you enjoy these?
  • Do you feel you have purpose in life?
  • Do you experience a sense of accomplishment and competency in your activities and life?
  • Are you involved in close, caring relationships with a significant partner, family and friends?
  • Do you feel calm and at peace?
  • Do you have a sense of optimism about the future and the present?
  • Do you have a feeling of self worth and positive self-esteem?
  • Do you consider yourself to be energetic and full of vitality?
  • Are you able to withstand adversity and unexpected challenges?

Mental wellness doesn’t just happen. It is the product of consistent attention to the positive aspects of your day to day life. But sometimes, through no fault of our own, life can become overwhelming.  Unfortunately, this can lead to a decline in our mental wellness and result in stress, anxiety or depression.

If you feel that your mental state might be deteriorating, even if you are not already suffering what could be considered a mental illness, it’s a good idea to take action and do something proactive to address this situation before it deteriorates even more.

Reach out and speak to a family member or a close friend. Visit your doctor, therapist, pastor or a mental health counselor. You could even try calling a local support line. These are widely available and provide anonymous assistance. Sometimes the mere act of speaking about life and the things that are bothering us can be enough.

If  you don’t feel comfortable with any of these alternatives you could choose to access one of our online prevention programs. Try one of them for free by visiting this page.

Whatever you ultimately decide is the best course of action for you, the important thing is that you take that action. Mental wellness is a valuable but fragile component of all our lives. And, as with all things valuable, it must be safeguarded. If there is any way that we can help, it would be our privilege to do so.