On the 10th of October we will celebrate World Mental Health Day. Let’s look at why it’s so important we continue to mark this day and how to support your loved ones and yourself.
Not everyone has access to support, and many people still experience shame and stigma surrounding mental health. After nearly two years of the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is more relevant than ever that we check in with our wellbeing. Surveys from early 2021 suggest that about 57% of the people in the survey (see resources) reported that the Covid-19 Pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health. About 15% of the people described feeling depressed most days of the week, and 13% reported feeling lonely. Maybe you can relate to these statistics, or you will know someone who can relate to them. Let’s talk about mental health, how to support others with their mental health and your own.
Mental Health. Not Mental Illness.
What is the difference between mental ‘health’ and ‘illness’? Mental illness is a more outdated term to refer to mental health struggles. The word ‘illness’ implies there’s something wrong with the person who experiences these struggles. Nowadays, we know that mental health struggles and concerns are common and normal to experience.
Let’s compare mental health and physical health for a moment. For example, someone may go to the gym to ‘lose’ or ‘gain’ something. The same goes for mental health, at times we all need to check in with ourselves and this can lead to ‘losing’ that sense of sadness or ‘gaining’ better relationships in life. This can include mindfulness, maybe some journaling or other self care practices. It could also be a heart to heart conversation with a loved one or attending counselling. At Spectrum Mental Health we have a wide range of qualified psychologists and psychotherapists, all with their own specialisations and interests – and most of all, to support you.
How to mind your own mental health
If we were to use the analogy of tea – then mental health would be the amount of tea you have in your cup: hence the saying goes we can’t pour from an empty cup. So how do we fill our mental health cup? Here are some tips, maybe you’ve tried some or maybe some of these are new to you:
- Journaling. It can be helpful to journal about your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Some people may find it beneficial to write whole stories, others journal with bullet points. Here are some prompts to get you started: (fill in the blanks)
- Today, my day was … . Overall, my mood today was … .
- With the following people I feel most comfortable: … And I know this because of the following 2 or 3 factors: …
- My strengths as a friend are: …
- My strengths in work are: …
- Which parts of my day give me the most energy: …
- Which parts of my day drain me the most: … And I recover from this by doing: …
- What gives me the most energy is: (name at least 5 things, no matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ they may look – this can go from promotions, to drinking your favourite tea)
- An ideal ‘date-night’ with my partner of best friend would include: …
- Meditation/Mindfulness. Taking a moment to pause, stop focusing on the to do list or the busy-ness of life and reflect on how you are what you are really feeling. This can be a very helpful way to practice self care and mind your mental health.
- Connecting with someone you trust – a close friend or loved-one, about what is going on for you and how you are dealing with everyday life
- Therapy can be a great way to reflect on what has happened for you, to better understand your experienced, and (depending on the goals for your therapy) to cope better with what you’ve experienced, feel better about yourself and/or to improve your relationships around you. Existing blogs about what therapy is/ what to expect. If you’re wondering on what to expect from therapy and how this might go, check out -these- blogs.
Signs you can benefit from support for your mental health
Knowing when to ask for support from others, is a strength. It means you know what you can do alone, and when you need to share with others in order to cope better with difficult moments. You may benefit from therapy when, for example:
- You are feeling ‘off’. Maybe it’s been a period of time since you have felt like your self. You are moody or more anxious than what is usual for you
- Your symptoms are impacting other areas of life: such as your concentration, your work, you might be easily irritated around people whom you’re normally comfortable with, or maybe you are noticing that you’ve shut down for no apparent reason?
- Your sleep is impacted. Sleep has a huge impact on our wellbeing – and vice versa is true too, when we feel off it can happen we either sleep much more or much less.
- Your relationships are impacted. As mentioned above, relationships are frequently impacted by our mood. Maybe you’re noticing that you’re withdrawing from others, or maybe after socialising you are not feeling as positive as you did say a couple of months ago?
Start the Conversation with a loved one or colleague about their mental health– SeeChange.ie
So, how can you support someone close to you? Here are some Do’s and Don’ts:
DO: Listen to what the other is saying DON’T: Respond with cliché’s, this often feels invalidating and ingenuine even though its meant well
DO: Talk too! Respond to what the other is saying, maybe that you can relate to their story? If you can’t relate that’s fine too! You can for example share ‘That sounds really hard, I don’t know what it is like to struggle with that. Can you tell me more to help me understand?’
DON’T: Diagnose or find solutions for the other, but encourage them to think about what would be helpful for them and enable them to help themselves.
DO: Be a friend and support them to find the right support! For example, support them to write or call us at 01 611 1719 or agree to meet them in a cafe after they meet their GP for a consultation.
Written by Tim Van Wanrooij, Counselling Psychologist, PSI Accreditation.
See more of Tim’s pieces at www.instagram.com/timpsychology .