Mental Health and Other Professionals
It has always been easier to define mental illnesses than to define mental health. In the United States, the American Psychiatric Association has traditionally been the organization to define mental disorders (beginning as early as 1917 when it was known as The Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions of the Insane). More recently many have recognized that mental health is more than the absence of mental illness.
Even though many of us don't suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, it is clear that some of us are mentally healthier than others. Here are a few ideas that have been put forward as characteristics of mental health:
- The ability to enjoy life - The ability to enjoy life is essential to good mental health. Too often we make ourselves miserable in the present by worrying about the future. We, of course, need to plan for the future at times; and we also need to learn from the past.
- Resilience - The ability to bounce back from adversity has been referred to as "resilience." It has been long known that some people handle stress better than others. The characteristic of "resilience" is shared by those who cope well with stress.
- Balance - Balance in life seems to result in greater mental health. We all need to balance time spent socially with time spent alone, for example. Balance between work and place, balance between socialisation and social isolation the balance between sleep and wakefulness, the balance between rest and exercise, and even the balance between time spent indoors and time spent outdoors.
- Flexibility - Working on making our expectations more flexible can improve our mental health. Emotional flexibility may be just as important as cognitive flexibility. Mental healthy people experience a range of emotions and allow themselves to express these feelings. Some people shut off certain feelings, finding them to be unacceptable. This emotional rigidity may result in other mental health problems. We all know people who hold very rigid opinions. No amount of discussion can change their views. Such people often set themselves up for added stress by the rigid expectations that they hold.
- Self-actualization - We first need to recognize our gifts, of course, and the process of recognition is part of the path toward self-actualization. Mentally healthy persons are in the process of actualizing their potential. In order to do this, we must first feel secure.
These are just a few of the concepts that are important in attempting to define mental health. The ability to form healthy relationships with others is also important. Adult and adolescent mental health also includes the concepts of self-esteem and healthy sexuality. How we deal with loss and death is also an important element of mental health.
If mental health could be summarized in one single definition is Integration. Integration is when all parts of a system are working cooperatively together as a whole, to create something even greater than their individual parts. Integration in mental health is when all of the parts of our brains are working together in harmony.
Integrating different parts of the brain
We often do not realize that our brains are composed of many different structures, each of which has its own role to play in its processing of information and energy around us.
Our left brain, for example, deals with logical and sequential things and helps us speak coherently and use language. Our right brain is more responsible for non- verbal aspects of our lives, such as our emotional selves. Delving deeper, there is the hippocampus of the brain, which helps with learning and memory, as well as the amygdala, which has to do with that fight-or- flight experience we have when we feel when we are in danger.
The anterior cingulate registers physical and social pain; the hypothalamus produces hormones that regulate functions such as sleep and appetite. More and more is being learned about the different structures of the human brain continuously as it is an extremely complex organ.Integration is when all of the above parts, and countless others, are working together.
How does integration work?
When the brain is integrated, each part of it plays its individual role while contributing to the greater function of the whole. It could be stated in a layman’s language as the harmony of a choir: Each singer has his or her part and can function as a soloist, but when combined with the larger choir, produces something much greater than the sum of its parts. Integration is simply "linking different elements together to create a well-functioning whole,"
The phenomenon could be "horizontal integration," which refers to the right and left brain working together, as well as "vertical integration," which refers to newer, higher parts of the brain such as those responsible for thinking and planning, working together with the lower, more primal parts of the brain, such as those responsible for survival and instinct.
Myths and Misconceptions about Mental Health
- Myth 1- People with mental illness can never be productive or do normal work like normal people.
- Reality- At present 90% of the patients with any kind of mental illness respond to pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. They can very well lead a productive and qualitative life any normal person. Many high level jobs are performed by people who have experienced mental illness. Person who have had mental illness have excelled in many areas.
- Myth 2- Mentally ill people are dangerous.
- Reality- Research from National Institute of Mental Health(NIMH,USA) indicates that only 1% of mentally ill person are potentially dangerous. The agitated patients can also be successfully treated with pharmacotherapy and other biological treatments like ECT.
- Myth 3- Psychiatric treatment may cause irreparable brain damage.
- Reality- In fact behaving like "robot" is the symptoms of mental illness can best be treated with psychiatric treatment.
- Myth 4- People who appear to act in a functional way with a logical speech pattern and good memory are not mentally ill.
- Reality- There are many types and forms of mental ill which do not effect memory or ability to speak appropriately. Many individual recovering from mental illness appear to be "normal".
- Myth 5- Mental illness is unlike physical illness; the illness is really all in person's head.
- Reality- Mental illness is just like physical illness since both are biologically based.
- Myth 6- Mentally ill people have weak characters since they can't cope with the world in the same way that the rest of us do.
- Reality- The Development of mental illness has nothing to do with person's character. Mental illness strikes people with all kinds of backgrounds, beliefs, temperament and morals.
- Myth 7- Mentally ill people are Unfocused, have defective thought processes and consequently, can't really tap their intelligence.
- Reality- Most Mentally ill people have average to above average intelligence. Studies show that these individuals can be quite focused and are capable of achieving very high grade point averages in school.
- Myth 8- Mental illness is not very widespread and health care providers should focus their attention other health problems.
- Reality- Studies have indicated that by the year 2020 the leading cause of disability in the world will be major depression. International studies indicate that from 30-40% of people in any given population will experience mental illness at some point of their lives.
- Myth 9- People with Mental illness experience little difficulty with people around them; their main struggle is with themselves.
- Reality- People with mental illness frequently withdraw themselves from society and isolate themselves.
- Myth 10- Mental illness first appears at birth or shortly after birth.
- Reality- Many forms of mental illness appear later in life. As an example, Schizophrenia occurs in the late teens or early adult’s years.
Factors influencing Mental health
- Influence culture of the person.
- Family process types, structures, patterns of communications in the family.
- Social class and economic status
- Ethnic background of the patient
- Personal factors like personal perception & understanding about illness, way of thinking, believe and behaving, personal characteristics etc
- Habit & ritual practices
- Life style