Meloncauli is a former nurse and anxiety management therapist. She hopes everyone can take something away from her articles.
What Is Mental Health?
"Mental health" refers to the psychological well-being of a person. Everyone has a mental health, whether or not you're mentally ill. It's important to promote mental health (that is, mental well-being) to help people avoid becoming mentally unwell.
We must address, on a societal level, the biological, psychological, and social needs of all people.
Who Can Promote Mental Health (and How)?
There are some important groups that can have a big impact if they do their part.
Our children need to feel happy and whole. Sometimes, in life, parents encounter difficult circumstances such as poverty and illness. Indeed some parents may have a disabled son or daughter, or perhaps their child has a chronic illness and this can have a detrimental effect on their mental health. Marriages become strained under such stressful situations too. The fact is that parents need to be emotionally and physically supportive of their children but equally, there may be circumstances where those parents need a lot of extra support for their mental health.
A good relationship in which a child can share feelings with his parents and thus any problems or worries is of paramount importance. The teenage years can be particularly difficult years as social pressures build and parents should be aware of any outside factors that may be influencing the mental welfare of their child. Most of all they should ideally have the skills to know what to do in any worrying circumstances. A parent can help a child by:
- Giving praise: helping a child to gain self-confidence
- Encouragement: helping their child to achieve
- Meeting the physical needs of the child
- Building a good sense of communication and rapport
- Making it known that you are always available to approach with any problems
- Knowing who to ask for support when finding it all too difficult
Of course, disabled parents should have a good support network too.
Schools can play an important role in promoting mental health. Working together with the parent, any problematic situations can be addressed efficiently. Important social skills are learned at school and if there appears to be a problem socially this should be picked up and addressed. Schools often have a network of professional bodies to which they can turn when needing additional support with a vulnerable child.
There may be problems with learning difficulties, bullying, physical problems, and signs of neglect or mental illness. Behavioral problems often first come to light within the school environment so it is important that all schools have something in place to deal with this.
A bad school that is not observant of its children and does not encourage a healthy environment, in which a child feels safe, can have a very negative impact on the future of a child. If children at risk are provided with the correct support from an early age by both parents and schools they have a better chance in later life of becoming well-adjusted, mentally healthy adults.
Public Health and Government
The government by way of public policies works with all individuals and communities to help dispel any discrimination with regard to mental health. They aim to make sure that those who are suffering from a mental health problems have the correct support in place and are included in society. They work with all environments including the workplace and schools, to ensure support structures are in place for the well-being of the general public.
Everyone should have access to primary care and psychological services, including therapies if the need arises. The government takes into account the problems posed by all inequalities, poverty, and run-down or disadvantaged areas where risks of mental illness may be more prevalent. Through social services, they must make sure that adequate support is in place for all vulnerable groups in society, such as the mentally ill, the disabled, disadvantaged families, the elderly, and the homeless. Social inclusion is vital to good mental health. The policymakers must work closely with those professionals and charitable schemes that deliver services to those who are vulnerable and at risk. Of course, unemployment and drug problems are also areas of concern.
You and the Community
The community offers many services or projects to those groups who may be at risk of mental health problems. Often reliant on funding, such support structures aim to help those people who encounter challenging situations in life and thus are open to starting to have mental health problems. They are good for preventing a mental illness or crisis, and without these, many more people may end up on medication or having to use mental health services. We should not forget the Samaritans of course who do a wonderful job but there are other groups who offer support such as:
- Support for those who have been raped
- Women’s Aid: domestic violence or abuse support
- Support for carers of those who are ill, disabled, or mentally ill
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Cruise for bereavement support
- Victim support
- Gay men and women support
- Befriending services and ‘sitters’ who spend time with the elderly
Gain the Necessary Skills to Help Your Community
There are many groups that help to bring a sense of well-being to those suffering or going through a hard time. Just the fact that this kind of support exists is comforting. Whether you have a mental illness or not, you can become active in learning the skills required and taking the appropriate training, to help promote mental health. Whether in a paid or voluntary capacity, there may be much you can do in your community. Offering to go to someone’s home and style their hair, help with a new baby, or babysit, even, qualifies as other ways to promote a feeling of well-being. Actually, both you and the person derive something from doing things such as this. If you feel passionate about promoting mental health and spreading awareness, here are some ideas of what else you could do personally.
Offering a few hours a week to help run a helpline, a forum or a chat room is a good idea. This kind of work helps to prevent mental illness. If you have suffered yourself with a certain issue then you especially have valuable support to give.
National helplines such as NHS Direct, Childline, Samaritans, UK National Drugs Helpline, and National Bullying Helpline all serve to prevent mental illness and promote mental health. There are more and more chat rooms and forums to be found on the internet that are not all about mental illness but about topics such as parenting, bereavement, physical health issues, and so on.
In the UK, the mental health charity Rethink not only supports those who have a mental illness but also campaigns for a better quality of services and health policies. Actress Judy Dench and comedian Ruby Wax are some of the celebrities who support this charity. Join Rethink and become a campaigner or help to raise funds for the good of mental health issues. You could also find out how you can take part in World Mental Health Day.
If you have a mental health problem you could offer to talk about it at a local school or college. Ignorance and lack of education about mental illness create a breeding ground for stigma and discrimination.
Address Your Own Mental Health
Everyone in this world wants and needs to be loved, cared for, and supported in times of distress but what can you do for your own mental health?
- You should look at how you feel about yourself. Is your life riddled with guilt, self-esteem issues, anxiety, or periods of low moods? How can you help yourself to avoid being diagnosed with a mental illness?
- Find a good general doctor that you can confide in and offload to friends and relatives if the need arises
- Accept help if help is offered. Don’t be too proud to admit you are struggling
- If you feel useless and isolated in society, take steps to change this by becoming involved in something that interests you in the community
- If you are an angry person, find ways to channel that anger into something positive or get counseling to learn how to address it
- Make use of local support groups during particularly stressful times
- Use the helplines found nationally to avert a personal crisis
- Get enough sleep, exercise, don’t drink too much alcohol, and eat more healthily
- Find ways to relax or have time out regularly
- If you are a carer, make sure you get support too
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2012 meloncauli