Let’s talk about Mental Wellbeing …
– Sujan Shrestha
It’s a good thing that people are getting gradually aware about mental health. Many articles and news reports regarding mental health have surged up in recent days. But our approach has been more a conventional one which focuses on the treatment rather than the prevention of abnormalities. I think it has become a pattern in the media discourse of mental health to depict a melancholy picture of whole country’s dysfunctional health system. We have to get out of our narrower approach of mental health and think more in a broader and holistic perspective. Whether we agree or not, mental health is not absolute objective. Therefore we must be having many alternatives than just sticking to one approach when dealing with mental health. The quote, “Prevention is better than cure”, strikes the right cord to mental wellbeing. I think little attention towards the preventive approach would not go amiss.
Mental wellbeing is the preventive approach which protects people more generally against developing mental health difficulties. Now mental wellbeing is a tricky issue because it is very comprehensive and vague in its definition. Mental wellbeing is associated with physical wellbeing. It has social, cultural, political and economic dimension which make it hard to achieve in true sense. Mental wellbeing is being more than just happy. According to Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at the University of Warwick and a wellbeing expert, “Of course, feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing. But it is far from the whole. There is a deeper kind of wellbeing, which is about living in a way that is good for you and good for others around you.” It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience other plethora of emotions but it is more how you can cope with you destructive emotions and prevent deviations. Resilience is the essential component of mental wellbeing.
We have to have a broader perspective as to what causes mental disorders or abnormalities. Some are genetic in nature which can only be stabilised through medicines and therapies but mostly arouse from psychosocial and cognitive malfunctions. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy changes the distortive thinking pattern while treating the patient. In more technical terms it’s a technique to undergo a change of prevailing mental schemas. Now schemas are organized pattern of thoughts or mental framework. All our interpretations, understandings, attention, logic etc. are guided by schemas. Cognitive psychologists believe due to the maladaptive schemas psychological disorders are ensued. Now if we take the cognitive approach to the time before the development of a mental disorder it would be a big trouble saver. Mental wellbeing can be achieved if we introspect and find the faulty self-schemas and change into the one which is more adaptive and make us feel good about.
Mental wellbeing is a hot topic in developed economies and they are exploring this topic so that they can cut slash their huge burgeoning health expenses by clipping the root of the cause rather than treating the cause. It might take a long time in our country for this subject to be broached upon by the government since it’s not being able to establish more than one good mental hospital for the whole country at the present. But nonetheless it has been suggested that if we take some few basic steps on an individual level, we can keep most of the mental health problems at bay. According to National Health Service (NHS), UK, we should be focussing on five aspects of our life to achieve mental wellbeing:
1. Connect: connect with the people around you
2. Be active: Keep your mind and body engaged
3. Keep learning: Learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and new confidence.
4. Give to others: Even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word
5. Take notice and reflect: To be more aware of the present moment, including your feelings and thoughts, your body and the world. In other words develop “mindfulness”.
Now mental wellbeing is far from prescriptive. It is just suggestive. There can be more additional points onto the points above. There’s no conclusive research as of yet to prove that mental wellbeing will definitively prevent mental illness, but this approach has been getting large acceptance in the mental health sector in the countries like the UK and Europe. Still some ambiguities persist and mental wellbeing in unfavourable environments like in war and poverty seems like a distant dream and a fairy tale. Mental wellbeing although seems catchy term it is hard to get by. But on the brighter note, if not get it at least we can try to get it.
( This article was published on Nov 3, 2014 in The Himalayan Times daily. To read the published article click the link below http://m.thehimalayantimes.com/fullNews.php?headline=TOPICS%3A+Keeping+the+mind+healthy&NewsID=432210)