The concept of mental health and mental illness is misunderstood by many and remains a mystery to some. Just like our bodies can sometimes suffer poor health, so can our minds. Good health not only entail sour physical wellbeing but also our mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. So, what is mental health?
Mental health comprises our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. Our mental health determines how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Having good mental health is just as important as having good physical health. Just as there are indicators of good physical health such as a good diet, exercise and a non-detrimental lifestyle or habits, there are likewise indicators of good mental health such as our ability to process emotions and information in a constructive and non-detrimental manner, positive self-worth/esteem and confidence, cultivating positive relationships, being able to make constructive choices, being creative and productive. Wholly healthy individuals are people with a healthy mind as well as a healthy body.
So how does mental illness come about? It can result from several factors such as:
· Excessive stress
· life experiences such as abuse or trauma,
· Low self-esteem or self-worth
· biological factors such as the brain make-up and chemistry or genetic factors
· family history of poor mental health.
Figure 2 Factors that contribute to mental health (Source: Kids matter)
Some of the common mental health problems include: Anxiety Disorders such as social anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, eating disorders (over-eating or under-eating),addictions, which manifest as a dependency, compulsion, habit or fixation, compulsive disorders – such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD),hallucinations – schizophrenia/psychosis, Alzheimer’s disease – leading to dementia (a deterioration of the brain) affecting cognitive tasks such as memory or reasoning.
Our minds are amazing and good mental health is essential for our well-being as well as the well-being of those around us. God communicates to us through our minds, which means that healthy minds are crucial for our prayer lives, spiritual growth and Christian experience. How then can we ensure good mental health? Here are a few tips:
· Know yourLimits - Just like physical thresholds, we also have mental thresholds. The mind, just like the body cannot cope with certain things. Get to understand your mental thresholds and if possible, of those around you
· Empathise-Empathy shows that we understand the other person’s perspective and challenges.
· Adjust- Make necessary lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, rest, creativity
· Support -Build a healthy support network of trusted friends, family, community members, colleagues etc
· Be Kind- Do something good for someone
· Boundaries- Establish Healthy relational boundaries
· Get Help!- Get professional help if needed
Cornerstone Counselling Service (CCS), has a team of qualified counsellors who have been demystifying mental health for more than 20 years. Offering professional and confidential counselling to individuals, couples and families who struggle with depression, anxiety disorders, abuse, trauma, addictions, bereavement etc. The team supports churches through mental health psycho education, workshops and support groups. Since 2016, CCS has been training counsellors to try and alleviate the need for quailfed counsellors.