What is mental health?
In layman’s language, mental health is ‘that’ which defines whether our minds are in a dark place or at a good place. It follows, therefore, that our mental health status determines how we think, feel and act; and to a large extent, impacts how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
In technical terms, Mental Health is the emotional, social and psychological well-being’.
Being mentally healthy translates to relatively happier and content lives. The reverse is true. Unfortunately, we continue to define mental health for what it’s not and battle with mental health disorders *cluelessly.
So what are the common symptoms of mental health disorders?
- Anxiety disorders and extreme phobia. You are anxious about the next steps and have a heightened phobia for the things that could wrong. You pick up the habit of giving up even before you start because you already know that you will fail at it anyway.
- Extreme mood swings and depression.
Mood swings make you dwell a little longer on the same things that stole your joy and they leave you sweating every little thing. One minute you are extremely excited, the other minute you are borderline raging. With time, you become reactive to every external factor around you and lose grasp of the self-awareness that guided your proactive response to the factors around you.
Depression gives you the constant feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It stops you from doing the normal activities that you previously found intriguing. Generally, depression is not as a result of a single event but from a mix of events and factors.
3. Social withdrawal symptoms. Interactions exhaust you and friendships that were previously effortless now feel like an (unnecessary) effort on your part. You turn down invitations more often than not and cotton to solitude a little bit more.
4. Impostor syndrome kicks in as soon as you get any breakthrough. I am just lucky-you tell yourself almost immediately you get a win. Cannot do this as well as XYZ-you compare yourself. May never be deserving of this – you say to yourself over and over again.
And because you spend so much time thinking about what you are not, you forget who you are and what made you deserving of your success in the first place.
5. Reduced concentration spans and increased confusion. Your mind is generally clouded and it gets harder to put your thoughts across lucidly. Your ability to concentrate is also reduced by the fact that you are mostly tired and running on low energy
6. Drug abuse and addictions.
This mostly stems from the fact that you want to escape reality. And addictions go beyond drugs… you could be addicted to sleeping, solitude , sadness and so on
And how can we help those of us with mental health issues?
- Listen empathetically and provide them with that safe space to talk. Be physically and emotionally present in the conversation, ask questions from a point of empathy and most importantly, (tempting as it is), DO NOT downplay their situation by comparing them to other people who are seemingly going through tougher situations than them.
- Affirm them. Speak life back to them, remind them how special it is that in a world of billions, there is NONE like them. How cool that must be. Help them count their blessings and softly name their strengths and capabilities one by one…
- Be the calm in the storm. It might not be the best of times, but it is the only time they have. So rather than wishing for a world without storms, tell them that indeed they can learn how to paddle their boat in the stormy weather; and while at it have some fun
- Patience_Extraordinaire. You need to understand that it will take time to get through whatever situation they are going through. Do not rush them into healing or ask them why it is taking them that long. And should they choose therapy, let them- for as long as they need it.
- Keep social contact. Check in on your friends and family occasionally and let them know that you are always a phone call away. Let them know that in you they have a support system.
Mental health…is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.” – Noam Shpancer, PhD
Big little girl | story teller for all seasons | Kenyan |