By Kerstin Andlaw
The term ‘mental health’ has become a bit of a buzz phrase. It is hard to read a newspaper or listen to the news without mental health being mentioned. With the likes of Prince William and the Royal Family raising awareness of mental health through their initiative ‘Heads Together’, and celebrities speaking out about it, the subject is being normalised, resulting in an overall increased awareness. This is positive as more and more people talking about mental health is removing the stigma.
Some companies are also concerned about their employee’s mental health, and there are relevant awards up for grabs, all of which is helping to increase the awareness and the importance of the subject.
But what are we actually referring to when we talk about mental health? Is it anxiety, depression, mental breakdowns, or is it wellbeing?
‘Mental health’ refers to ‘the absence of illness of the mind’.
The term ‘mental health’ is often used when talking about mental illness or psychological difficulties and struggles, which perhaps is the reason for the stigma that is still surrounding it at times. Yet the term ‘mental health’ refers to ‘the absence of illness of the mind’ and refers to a person that is ‘able to cope with the normal stresses of life, that can work productively and fruitfully’. This, to me sounds positive, but let’s take a look at it more closely.
If we were to break down the broad area the term mental health is referring to, we could view it as a spectrum that each person moves along throughout their lives, sliding back and forth as they face challenges and gain clarity and insights.
One side of the spectrum is mental illness, which includes clinical diagnosis and the other end of the spectrum is complete wellbeing, peace of mind and happiness. In between is a whole array of being-states which constantly change either significantly or minutely, from year to year, month to month, day to day or moment to moment.
Every human being experiences what they mentally process from one moment to the next, which is subject to constant and never ending change. You may go from a low-feeling state to a high-feeling state within moments, which is perfectly exemplified and easily observed in the mood shifts of young children.
A child can go from complete frustration and anger from not getting an ice cream, to total excitement and joy as their attention shifts to something else interesting such as a playground, sliding back and forth on the spectrum all in a moments time. This displays perfect mental health and wellbeing that each and every person is born with and has the capacity to access.
Throughout a person’s life it may be more difficult to access mental wellbeing at times, and depending on where that person is on the spectrum at that moment in time, interventions may differ and can range from clinical support when on the mental ill health side of the spectrum, to coaching or other personal development interventions when on the wellbeing end of the spectrum.
Mental health, wellbeing, or whatever you may want to call it is a lifelong journey that everyone is taking whether you are aware of it or not.
You may be proactive in your approach to stay on the wellbeing side of the spectrum, or working on restoring access to your natural wellbeing. Either way, it is an opportunity to grow and evolve – you choose.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
If you consider that each and every individual is born with perfect mental health and wellbeing, it becomes clear that each and every one has the capacity to stay and/or return to mental health and wellbeing.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – albert einstein
It is encouraging to see so many employers choosing to support their people’s mental wellbeing in providing access to resources to create positive change, yet it is each person’s responsibility to take care of their own mental wellbeing.
Working Minds believes firmly in supporting people to develop ways to access and maintain their wellbeing and enable them to continuously grow and evolve to live their best life.
Shifting our perspective on this subject to seeing it as an opportunity and as something that everyone is capable of accessing is fundamental to creating a better life, a better workforce, a better community and a better world.
To start the process, you may find it useful to bring awareness to where you consider you may be on the spectrum right now, and notice how this can shift from moment to moment.