Many of us have presumably become acquainted with the term ‘mental health’ – more so now as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a topic that has frequented different media platforms. But how knowledgeable are we on this subject matter? For some, we may have prior understanding and knowledge of it because of our personal experiences or those around us. For others, the topic might be foreign; therefore, we attain very little or no knowledge on it and the significance of it.
So, what is mental health? Mental health is a psychological term and is a concern with the preservation of our state of mind – not withholding our emotional and social health. A person can have good mental health or compromised mental health. According to the Cognitive (thought) Behaviour Theory (CBT), our mental health can be influenced by the type of thoughts we cultivate, which inadvertently affects our emotions and behaviour.
Depending on the predominant thinking patterns we entertain, we can either live a functional life or a life of disruption and distress. As to how we perceive the self, the world and the future influence our experiences.
Dr Davidson, a psychiatrist, emphasises the emotion and behaviour as a point of vantage to mental illnesses, as not all mental illnesses have a direct correlation with our minds.
Sigmund Freud, the man known as the father of psychology, explains our mental health as the ability “to love and to work”.
“Although a person may be extremely bright or somewhat below normal in intelligence, although he may be gregarious and outgoing with many friends or somewhat shy and a loner, although he may live a conventional middle-class life or be somewhat bohemian and unconventional, he has achieved psychological health if he has learned to love some other human being and to work productively in some way which he finds personally satisfying. When a person is unable or becomes unable to function at a level commensurate with his intellectual abilities in interpersonal relations or work, then he might be considered to have some form of psychiatric illness.”
In a nutshell, when we can function holistically in our everyday lives, which entails being productive in workspaces and being able to form loving relationships, we are mentally healthy. However, when we are unable to do this, disruption or distress occurs in our daily functioning, which will prevent us from engaging in everyday tasks such as going to work, getting out of bed or simply engage with others. Inevitably, these outcomes may lead to mental/psychiatric illnesses for some of us.
Why is it important to know about mental health?
As with any other physiological illnesses such as cancer or diabetes, mental illnesses does not discriminate. As long as we are human beings, we are exposed to daily stressors and challenges in our lives – whether it’s writing an exam, addressing board members or having a family.
The current global pandemic is a good example of unexpected stressors that have not only challenged our livelihoods but our psychological wellbeing. Often, when we experience challenges, we don’t sometimes know how to handle them, so we either ignore them thinking that it will go away or we prioritise something else instead.
Over a period of time, these unresolved issues affect our mental health and have the potential to manifest itself into symptoms of mental illness. Hence, it is imperative to understand and be knowledgeable about the subject of mental health but also to seek help.
An informed mind makes better choices.
• Justine /Oaës can be reached at email@example.com
Justine's column will apppear every second Friday in the New Era newspaper.