Life is hard even under the best of circumstances. Without physical and mental health, it’s difficult to enjoy life and to thrive. It makes good sense to take care of ourselves and that includes getting help when we suffer physically or psychologically.
When we feel sick we get ourselves to the doctor. And when we feel so bad that we think about hurting ourselves or others, or when we cannot engage positively in work or in relationships, or we cannot accomplish what we want, we should seek help to feel better. That is what all of us deserve.
Mental health shouldn’t be a dirty word. Still damaging stigmas prevail allowing ignorance to end lives. Judging others or ourselves for our suffering is just plain harsh, not to mention counterproductive. When was the last time telling a depressed person to “get over it” worked? Try never! And using shame as a tactic to “encourage” someone to be what you think they should be only added to a person’s suffering.
Mental health problems should be thought of no differently than physical health problems. In fact, they have completely related: mental health problems affect physical health and physical health problems affect mental health. We need a world where no one feels embarrassed or ashamed about their suffering. We need a world where suffering evokes only kindness, compassion, and a desire to help.
Here are 5 enlightened ways to think about mental health:
1. Everyone suffers.
I have never met anyone who is happy and calm all the time. It’s just not possible, no matter how good someone’s life looks from the outside. Most people suffer at some point in their life from anxiety, depression, aggression, PTSD, shame, substance abuse disorders, and other symptoms.
And, if a person is lucky enough to never suffer psychologically, they surely love someone who does suffer in these ways. Instead of living lives of quiet desperation, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, let’s encourage honest talk. If someone gets uncomfortable with honest talk, we can talk about that too.
2. Mental health checkups are an important part of wellness.
Do you feel ashamed when you go for a check-up at your internist? Probably not. On the contrary, you’re likely to feel proud that you are taking care of your health. Yet most people are ashamed to call a psychotherapist for a consultation.
This makes no logical sense. A mental health checkup is a great idea especially if you are suffering and not able to function the way you want. You should feel very proud for taking care of your mental health.
Also, read 11 Signs You Need To Talk To A Therapist
3. Gym for the brain.
That’s exactly how I describe therapy for my patients who come in feeling bad that they “have to come to therapy.” In our society, we praise people for working out at the gym. We think of them as maintaining their health and taking good care of themselves. Well, that’s no different for a person wanting to enhance their psychological wellbeing.
Therapy grows new brain cell networks, calms the mind and body, makes it easier to meet life’s challenges, and helps us thrive as we become the best versions of ourselves that we can.
4. Education in emotions is a game-changer.
We live in a challenging society because it is not very nurturing. That’s why rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorder have skyrocketed. According to a new disturbing report from the CDC, suicide rates are steadily increasing.
At the very least, our society could provide accessible and understandable education on emotions. This would help us all understand how our childhood experiences translate to directly affect our adult mental health (for better and for worse).