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Mental health awareness week – an article by Daniel Docherty

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Mental health, a term too often dispersed and spread around nonchalantly in 21st century society. A term utilised manipulatively by marketing companies and social media to lure the public into a false sense of sincerity. A term attributed to the functioning of an enigmatic part of human existence that experts still don’t fully understand.

This then begs the question, what is this complex concept known as mental health? Despite its popularity and elevation to the status of a ‘buzzword,’ it does have a practical application and effect in the real world. Mental health is a state of mind. Good mental health is in essence a state of mind in which balance and order are present and disturbances are kept to a minimum. It is the state in which your mind is healthy.

Just like the health of our physical bodies, good mental health and well-being is vitally important to our existence and quality of life as a whole. If this state of psychological homeostasis is not achieved, it can have detrimental effects on one’s life and potentially devastating outcomes. Almost everyone on this planet experiences adversities and disturbances to their mental state to varying degrees and for differing durations, but most overcome these difficult times in their life. For others, the adversities are chronic and can even result in a more egregious fate.

On a macro scale it has reached the level of a pandemic with nearly every country experiencing heightened numbers of suicides and people availing of social and psychological services. The phenomenon also seems to be getting younger as well. This can in part be explained by a society that breeds the notion of acceptance and awareness without substance and sufficient supports in place.

This can also be explained by environmental changes such as the rise of technology and social media, greater disparities in wealth, pollution, the modern diet, and a transition from a collective society unified by common goals and beliefs to one that has become highly globalised and hyper fixated on individualism. While this has never been perfect, societies now more than ever tend to lack a coherent bond, identity, and inherently genuine support system for those who are suffering in silence from an invisible virus.

From a Psychological perspective, this chronic level of adversity and disturbance to an individual’s mental state is pervasive throughout many neurodevelopmental and other cognitive related conditions such as Autism, Anxiety Disorder, Depression, ADHD, OCD etc. Many people like myself who have conditions like these battle on a daily basis to try and achieve some kind of balance or stability in their cognition, despite often giving off the appearance that they are in a state of mental homeostasis.

With all that said the chance of a good quality of life can seem hopeless for some. A seemingly predetermined life of despair and suffering. Contrary to this line of thinking, it does not have be that way as there are positive changes that can be implemented. For those who are fortunate enough to be in a good state of mental health and genuinely care about others well-being, you can help by raising awareness of the issues and pushing for a better healthcare system.

You can also look out for and try to help people who are close to you that may be struggling, whether it be your family, friends, or neighbours. Despite this we do ultimately live in an individualised society and often times it is only you who can truly improve your own mental health by bringing about positive changes in your own life.

While it is easier said than done here are some things you can do in your own life to instigate a positive change going forward. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night. Try to make small improvements to your diet, whether that is eating more, eating less, or changing the types of foods you eat to be healthier. Try to reduce time spent on social media platforms such as Instagram, where everyone’s lives can seem perfect. Try to exercise as much as possible, whether that is in the form of joining a sport, lifting weights in the gym, or even just going for a short walk every day, as it can improve your physical and mental state. Another key technique is to try and focus on only the things that are in your control.

All too often we get fixated and worried about events that we cannot do anything about which further plays into our negative thinking patterns. It is about breaking these patterns by taking a hold of things that we can control. For instance, we cannot control what others will do or say, but we can control how we choose to react. Another helpful strategy is to plan out your day as best as you can by creating a daily routine and attempting to stick to it as best as possible.

This should reinforce positive change as we are taking back control of our lives. Try also to find something that you excel at and/or are passionate about and try to set small realistic goals that are attainable in order to improve your skills and build confidence in your life.

You can also use rewards for these goals to help incentivise the process. This will help fill your time, keeping your mind occupied and focused on improving yourself going forward. As you progress you should start to gain confidence in yourself and your abilities resulting in increased self-esteem and self-worth.

In conclusion it is not easy to make these changes to improve your mental state and takes a lot of hard work to change your life for the better, but once you achieve these goals you should be well on your way to obtaining a state of good mental health. Although these methods and strategies can be effective, it is still important to talk to someone you trust or a healthcare professional such as a psychologist. And always remember never give up!

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