The WHO (World Health Organization) has a theme for every year – and 2022’s theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘making mental health and well-being a global priority.”
Obviously, I am all for that. Making mental health a priority is long overdue for most of the world. So the first question is – What the heck is mental health?
Here’s the thing – when we say ‘mental health’ we usually mean ‘issues.’ But we all have mental health. Think of it as a score, or a continuum. Just like we all have health, whether or not we have an illness, we all have mental health.
Mental Health v. Illness
Most people experience anxiety and depression. A lot of people will have clinically defined (as in a diagnosis that meets certain DSM criteria) anxiety or depressive disorders in the course of their life. And those are not at all the same thing. There are a lot of mental health statistics, but the most relevant are:
- 19.86% of adults are experiencing a mental illness. Equivalent to nearly 50 million Americans.
- 4.91% are experiencing a severe mental illness.
- 7.74% of adults in America reported having a substance use disorder in the past year.
- The percentage of adults reporting serious thoughts of suicide is 4.58%.
- Over half (56%) of adults with a mental illness receive no treatment.
- Over 27 million individuals experiencing a mental illness are going untreated.
Though there are a lot of reasons for the level of untreated illness, I think stigma is still a huge barrier for a lot of people. We need to talk more about all of this – obviously, there are a lot of people who are struggling in silence.
What are the 3 most significant determinants of mental health? Three social determinants are particularly significant: freedom from discrimination and violence. social inclusion. access to economic resources. Here are some others:
- childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect
- bereavement (losing someone close to you)
- severe or long-term stress
- having a long-term physical health condition
- unemployment or losing your job
- homelessness or poor housing
- being a long-term caregiver for someone
- drug and alcohol misuse
- domestic violence, bullying or other abuse as an adult
- significant trauma as an adult, such as military combat, being involved in a serious incident in which you feared for your life, or being the victim of a violent crime
- physical causes – for example, a head injury or a neurological condition such as epilepsy can have an impact on your behavior and mood. (It’s important to rule out potential physical causes).
If we define ‘mental health’ not as illness but in a more general way, here are some indicators:
- cope with the normal stresses of life
- work productively
- realize your potential
- contribute to the community
- you might have emotions including happiness, love, joy and compassion
- you feel generally satisfied with life
- you feel like you belong to a community and are making a contribution to society
- you have a sense of spiritual well being, a sense of meaning or purpose, and feelings of peace
- you are confident when faced with new situations or people
- you feel optimistic
- you do not always blame yourself
- you set goals
- you have good self esteem
Now, most of us do not have all of those all of the time. You have situational stressors that disrupt life, and you have people and situations that make you question yourself. All of that is normal – you are doing great if you feel these 70% of the time. Most people who function well feel this way at least 40% of the time, according to the old Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score model. If you look at it that way, most people are not over 80% (except on a very good day).
Here are some of my favorite ‘mental health’ activities (in no particular order):
- Safe Place Visualization Script
- Self-Compassion Exercises to try – LovingKindness is the most universal and generally helpful one, in my experience.
- 10% Happier (website, app and podcast)
- Gratitude & Acceptance Practice – keep it simple and write down something you are grateful for and something beyond your control that you need to work on accepting every day. Writing it down does make a difference!
- Resource Guide
- Social Media: #WorldMentalHealthDay #WMHD2022
As always, feel free to reach out! Email is the best way. Until next week,