Mental Health is not an all or nothing state. You are not either mentally healthy or completely mentally ill as many people seem to think. But rather mental health has a large range from being happy and contented to being clinically depressed. You can actually learn skills to get you fit and in good mental health shape.
Unfortunately, the view that you are either mentally fine or mentally ill leads to unnecessary stigmatizing of seeking a counsellors help. People feel no shame in seeing a doctor when they are unwell for a physical problem and the same should be true for seeing a professionally trained counsellor. Professionally trained counsellors can help you over bouts of unhappiness, poor relationships or personal issues that you may not have the skills to deal with.
The concept of mental health is comparable to physical health. Just as physical health is learned so is the ability to be Mentally Healthy. In fact the only 2 emotions we are born with are anger, the motivating force for change and love, the ability to connect. All other emotions such as depression, sadness etc., we learn from other people who model it to us when we were young.
In physical health you learn healthy eating, learn to exercise and learn how to take care of your physical health through doing various practices such as getting enough sleep, meditating or yoga. When you are not feeling well, you see a doctor or physical therapist to help you get back to your optimal state. Again physical health is not an all or nothing state.
The same is true for Mental Health. Unfortunately, most people do not realize that we can learn more effective ways to create happiness in our life. Most people mistakenly believe that we have no control over how we feel or what we think. They feel a victim to their emotions or other people around.
This is an unfortunate belief because then people believe they must suffer through unhappiness and be a victim to their own miserable state. Rather professionally trained counsellors can help teaching clients new ways to be happy or mentally healthy just as doctors, physical therapists and other sports professionals teach you how to be physically fit.
You can view mental health as a metaphor:
happiness = good mental health, unhappiness/depression = is not mental health
Mentally healthy people are not happy all the time, but the difference is that when they are unhappy they recognize it and look to change what isn’t working. Unhappy people or mentally unfit people keep looking outside at things they don’t have control over such as their spouse, their job, their children, their friends, their family and get stuck in cycle of blaming, complaining and negative behaviours. When a person stays stuck looking outside and trying to control things they have no control over this leads to unhappiness, anxiety or depression.
Professional trained counsellors can help unhappy people recognize—where their unhappiness is coming from and teach them more effective behaviours, choices and thoughts. In essences a professional counsellor will help tone up your mental health and get you in shape. From this standpoint, you need wait until things are so bad that change is much harder. Rather by seeking help and making an investment in your mental health fitness you can develop skills for a life and even teach them to your children or spouse. Good mental health is a positively contagious.
Happiness or mental health is enjoying the life you are choosing to live, getting along well with the people near and dear to you, doing something with your life you believe is worthwhile and not doing anything to deprive anyone else of the same chance for happiness you have.
Tammy Fontana, MS NCC CTRT
All in the Family Counselling