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Understanding Mental Health: Breaking the Stigma and Seeking Help

Mental health is an important but often overlooked issue. Although we often consider physical health to be top priority, our mental and emotional wellbeing is just as crucial. Unfortunately, stigmas around mental health can prevent people from seeking the help they need. Thankfully, there are important steps everyone can take to break down these barriers, and empower themselves to achieve a healthier, balanced peace of mind.

1. Dismantling Stigma: Unpacking What Mental Health Is

Mental health has long had a stigma attached to it, but this is mainly due to a lack of understanding as to what it is. Dismantling this stigma requires an unpacking of the concept of what is meant when discussing mental health.

Mental Illness
It is important to understand that mental health does not always mean a mental illness. Mental illness can refer to any condition that affects a person’s thinking, behavior, and mood. Common examples of mental illnesses include anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. These illnesses can be quite severe, and are usually treated with medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

Mental Wellness
Mental wellness, on the other hand, is the opposite of mental illness. It is a state of having optimal emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Achieving mental wellness requires developing positive lifestyle habits, such as:

  • Making time for self-care
  • Developing healthier coping mechanisms
  • Creating meaningful connections with others
  • Finding ways to manage stress
  • Making time for regular exercise
  • Developing healthier eating habits.

In short, mental health encompasses both mental illness and mental wellness. In order to reduce the stigma around mental health, it is important to have an accurate understanding of what it is. Only then can we effectively dismantle the stigma and create a more supportive environment for those who suffer from mental health issues.

2. Taking the First Step: Recognizing and Prioritizing Mental Health Care

If you’re serious about taking care of your mental health, the first step is to recognize and prioritize it. Mental health is often seen as optional but it can’t be emphasized enough how valuable it can be for taking care of yourself and your well-being. Here are a few things to keep in mind when recognizing and prioritizing mental health care:

  • Identify Stressors. The first step towards understanding your mental health is to note what’s causing stress in your life. Take note of the things that make you feel overwhelmed, spend some time reflecting on recurrent stressful situations and situations that could be avoided. This will help you focus on the specific things that need to be addressed.
  • Create a Support System. Having a network of family, friends, or professionals that you can rely on when needed can be a great way to maintain good mental health. Having a support system can provide a sense of comfort and security when you talk about your concerns and feelings.
  • Make Time for Yourself. Making time for yourself is important for managing mental health. This means spending time on activities that allow you to relax or that you enjoy, and avoiding activities that cause more stress. It may be helpful to set aside a few hours each day to engage in self-care activities, such as reading, going for walks, listening to music, taking a hot bath, or meditating.

Recognizing and prioritizing care for your mental health is an important part of managing stress and feeling like you have some control of your life. If your mental health is something that you want to prioritize, it is important to remember that it is a journey, not a destination. Make sure to be patient with yourself, take things one step at a time, and most of all, be gentle with yourself.

3. Reaching Out: Connecting with Trusted Others and Accessing Professional Support

Taking the First Step
Reaching out for help and support can be daunting and nerve-wracking. However, connecting with other people can be helpful when navigating through life’s challenges. Even if you only make minor small talk with the barista during your morning latte, engaging with others can build social connections and foster emotional support. The following are ways to take the first step to reach out and connect:

  • Check in with family: Ask relatives for assistance in navigating times of hardship.
  • Reach out to friends: Start by taking the small steps to text a friend and catch up.
  • Look for support online: Connect with people who understand the same struggles as you by reading online blogs and forums.

When feeling overwhelmed, it can be difficult to take the initiative to reach out and make connections. Remember that building relationships outside of yourself can help provide hope, comfort, and strength. Additionally, having a strong network is vital for times when professional and medical help is needed.

Getting Professional Support
At times, when feeling overwhelmed, people may need to turn to professional sources to help with their mental health and physical wellbeing. Professional help can help to provide strategies and resources to improve wellbeing and tap into human strengths. Here are some helpful tips to consider when in need of support:

  • Seek out a qualified professional: Look for professionals who have experience in dealing with the issue.
  • Do your research: Read reviews to find a reputable specialist that best fits your needs.
  • Take time to process: It’s ok if you need to take a few moments to assess whether this is the right match ahead of any appointments.

It takes tremendous strength and courage to reach out for help. Remember, no matter what challenges may arise, there are support options available. Connections from trusted others or accessing professional help can be beneficial when times become more difficult.

Having a basic understanding of mental health is beneficial to everyone. By continuing to spread awareness and understanding of mental health issues, and supporting those who are struggling, we can break the stigma and create an inclusive and safe supportive environment. Seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues – your well-being matters. Together we can make a difference and promote positive mental health for all.

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