Jul 5, 2021 | Health, Wellness

Peace of Mind

– Brett van der Schyff, Clinical Psychologist
Our mental health helps determine how we function daily, relate to others and cope with stress. Clinical psychologist Brett van der Schyff looks at how we can seek help when we most need it.
Mental wellness seeks to promote a state of wellbeing that allows us to cope with the stresses we face.

Our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing falls under the umbrella term of mental health – a term known by many, but often not fully understood. When a range of conditions affects a person’s mood, thinking or behaviour, it is defined as a mental illness. Although some are more susceptible to mental illnesses, through factors such as genetics and socialisation, it is not necessarily limited to such individuals

Mental health – which includes mental wellness – seeks to promote a state of wellbeing that allows us to cope with the stresses we face. Stressors can be a part of our daily living (considered ‘normal’) or may be completely unforeseen or traumatising experiences (‘abnormal’).

Whether confronting abnormal or normal stressors, everyone could benefit from some form of therapy or self-care, which is where the significance of mental health becomes evident. A mental illness has the potential to mildly or severely compromise – sometimes chronically – a person’s quality of life through illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or bipolar mood disorder.

According to the World Health Organization, worldwide, depression is the leading cause of disability: more than 264 million people of all ages succumb. Not only caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, depression is also the result of various factors combined. These include difficulty with mood regulation, genetic vulnerability, medication and possibly medical problems, and stressful life events.

The range of symptoms causing depression lead to experiences of general discontent, apathy, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of pleasure in activities, mood swings and sadness. This can often give way to agitation, excessive crying, irritability or restlessness and social isolation. Added to this, people have difficulty sleeping, a poor appetite, a lack of concentration, and thoughts of suicide and fatigue.

As mental health, much like physical health, is something that affects us all, perhaps it should receive more attention from as us individuals and families? The simple answer: this is not always the case. A major contributor to this is the stigma around mental illnesses, often attributed to misunderstandings through a lack of accurate information and other factors. Often, people are not sure what resources are available to achieve mental wellness, or they don’t have the resources to access the necessary help.
It should be stressed, however, that not everyone will require the extensive help of a professional. Mental wellness can be achieved by individuals, through their own efforts, which do not include therapy or medical treatment. Sharing your feelings with people you trust, keeping physically active, eating healthily, managing alcohol intake, good time management and learning to take a break, engaging in fun activities and self-acceptance are all natural ways that we can improve our general mental health.

Often what is required is a bit of guidance, in line with an individual’s or community’s interests and goals. Irrespective of the choice made, just know that it is okay to seek help if required, as well as to address your own mental health.