By Hagit Malikin, Intern at Evolution Psychology Center
The month of May is dedicated to mental health awareness around North America. During this month, advocates of mental health further combine their efforts to educate people about the importance and existence of mental health. This year, Mental Health America celebrates its 70th year as advocates for this important cause and explore deeper topics such as animal companionship, spirituality, humour and more.
Mental health is comprised of our emotional, social and psychological wellbeing. Our mental health state helps and allows us to combat stress, interact with others, and make life or daily choices. Mental health is important throughout our lives and therefore merits more positive attention1.
How do we reduce the stigma around mental health? First step is being vocal and educating those around us. Next is taking action. Our society still requires assistance achieving the latter as taking action requires time and understanding.
Before the emergence of a psychology field on its own, the field was based in psychiatry, where treatment was provided by a few people in the realm of medicine. The work of psychologists emerged during and after the World War l, where many soldiers struggled with, what we now call, post-traumatic stress disorder2. This created a realization for the need to care for people’s mental states rather than the sole focus on their physical well-being.
Today, the field of psychology and mental health continues to grow. More children are helped, more parents have access to resources, those who struggle internally are able to reach out, and companies are beginning to incorporate psychological services to employees. Though, there are still aspects that need to be ameliorated, such as accessibly and insurance, I believe that, with time, this can be achieved as well.
Though it’s important to make people aware of mental health and create an environment of acceptance, one of the most crucial steps is to be able to listen to ourselves. If each one of us focuses on our own mental health and ignore the voices around us, we will be taking a step toward mental health advocacy in our own way. The field of psychology was created for a reason; there was a need for the understanding and the care of mental and emotional health. In other words, people knew that something was off, and they required guidance and support. When our mind or body sends signals for help, the only person that knows what’s right for you is you, and you only.
One of the biggest components of mental health is self-care. Self-care is all about you. It is about showing yourself compassion, kindness and care. This is not to confuse with being selfish. Without taking care of yourself first, there is no way to take care of those around you.
When the demands put on us exceed our coping capabilities, it is very important to take the step and ask for help. The stigma that continues to exist around mental health, sometimes makes it very hard to pick up the phone and call a psychologist’s office. However, with organizations like the Mental Health America3 and Youth Mental Health Canada4, people are beginning to see mental health in a different light. Though it is not perfect, progress is emerging.
“Going to a counselor or therapist when you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed should be as normal as going to the doctor when you have the flu. Let’s end the stigma about mental health!”
- A History of Clinical Psychology as a Profession in America (and a Glimpse at Its Future). Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology2005 1:1, 1-30