By Rifa RasheedWhen we hear the word “counseling” we immediately get a mental image of the stereotypical “counseling approach” that is portrayed on television, cinema, and social media. Misconceptions around...Read more
By Mohamed Ilh’aan Nisham
Mental illnesses or mental health disorders refer to a wide range of mental health conditions that can cause an effect on an individual’s mood, thinking, behavior, and overall outlook of the world. Mental health concerns can be differentiated from disorders as the latter is usually diagnosed by a professional. However, this does not mean the concerns should be undermined unless you have a diagnosis. In both cases, it can entirely cause a significant change in day-to-day functioning. Some examples of mental health disorders include [but are not limited to] conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorders, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.
Beyond this, if not treated with care, people with mental illnesses can provide a pathway into unwanted habits that can severely harm themselves and the others around them -- a dependence on and the abuse of drugs, self-harm, and the deterioration of people’s mental health close to you. However, fearing that you may have a mental disorder or having been diagnosed with one does not mean that your world is over. There are plenty of ways to cope with it and not just survive, but thrive in life.
In the broadest scope, the most important thing we as a society can do is accept mental illnesses. Often, in our society, mental illnesses are disregarded -- individuals who claim to have issues dealing with their mental health are looked down upon, labeled as dramatic, and are asked to stop overthinking about ‘useless’ issues.
Therefore, we need to destigmatize the negative connotations behind having mental health issues and be more cautious in addressing individuals struggling with them. Understand that mental health is a significant part of our lives and educate the people around you that are ignorant.
In terms of individuals, each person must look into signs and symptoms of mental illnesses if you suspect you have one. A few key symptoms that manifest mental illnesses are constantly feeling anxious, worried, and unhappy.
Another red flag is changes to your physical health, like disruptions to your sleep patterns and fluctuations in your body mass.
Furthermore, if you feel as if you are withdrawing yourself from social situations and find you are quiet around the people you already have established comfortable relationships with, it is critical to reflect upon your behavior and ask why you feel this way.
One crucial step to take after recognizing that you are dealing with a mental illness is to accept the facts. Only after beginning to acknowledge that mental health is a crucial component of your existence can you begin to tackle the concept and figure out ways to cope with it.
Regardless of the context you are in, you cannot immediately reverse or change a situation to your liking and benefit. Accept that you have a mental illness or that you struggle with your mental health and try to turn it into a positive situation. This can be achieved by reflecting and evaluating all the negative experiences and emotions you have and turning them into lessons that you learn to improve and better yourself for the future.
Accepting the fact that you are struggling with your mental stability is just a stepping stone for you to grasp the situation you are in. If you are continually trying to refute the facts and evidence, this becomes another exhaustive internal struggle, which you can choose to avoid. This again comes intact with the aforementioned stigmas and can make the task of acceptance easier said than done.
Nevertheless, do not let societal norms dictate your personal feelings -- your mental health is related to your beliefs. Actions you can do to accept your state could be to make yourself aware of your views towards mental health. This can be followed by encouraging other people to remove the negative connotations that come with it.
Moreover, focus on the healthy relationships that encourage you towards acceptance, and engage in activities that you feel would help you reflect on yourself such as journaling or having conversations related to mental health in safe, secure, and healthy environments.
There are many ways to reach out for help, especially now with the rise of technology making communication faster and easier. Beyond this, you may ask for help from your peers and reliable sources, who will maintain confidentiality, such as your closest friends, family, and even teachers you can trust.
Professionals who are trained to aid you should also be considered. Although it may be a hard choice for some to reach out, it is important to do so, as the burden of your mental health can be too much for you to handle. It is always okay to ask for help. Who you turn to in your hour of need completely depends on your preferences as different approaches and settings are more suitable for some than others.
One possible option is to approach a medical doctor who is trained, not only to assess your physical conditions but also your mental health. This could go a long way as they could guide you towards further assistance based on your conditions and options, which are deemed viable.
Consulting a therapist and then progressing on to regular therapy is recommended. This option of getting help from trained professionals may guide you towards the improvement of your health through researched and approved assessments and evaluations specific to your mental health illness. If you feel like this might be overwhelming, or if you feel you are not ready for this step, it can be helpful to start small and approach family members or trusted peers.
Once you have come to terms with your mental state, a positive way to cope with it would be to engage in activities. Being more physically active has been proven to release dopamine and serotonin. Engaging with your community as well as offering aid and insight to those who have mental illnesses can also help you understand and empathize with the feelings of others. Engaging in conversations regarding mental health in our society can also help to minimize the negative connotations that come with it, which will help to create a more mindful and positive society that benefits everyone. Lastly, it can create a sense of belonging and if you feel as if you have no purpose, it is a good place to start.
These steps could be easy to grasp, but it is important to know that it can also be hard for people to execute them but that does not mean you should shy away and stop trying. You can only work on yourself if you understand that your mental health is a crucial component that impacts your life. With regards to seeking help, pace it according to your comfort level.