When you hear the words mental health, therapy, counseling what thoughts or images are conjured in your mind? Some people dismiss it as unnecessary or only for “crazy” people. Some think of an old white man asking you to lay down on a couch and divulge all of your deep dark secrets. Others may even think about the negative associations people have to various mental health disorders. These and many more thoughts, feelings, and experiences are why conversations surrounding mental health continue. My hope through these guest blog posts is that somebody gains clarity about what is and isn’t mental health, how to find help, what mental health professionals can, cannot, should, and should not do, an individual’s role in the process, and what doing the work looks like in real time.
So, what is mental health? I recently heard a mental health professional and pastor describe mental health as the ability of an individual to satisfactorily adjust to the demands of life. Think about the times where you have struggled to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors? Was your position at work terminated, did a loved one pass away, adopt a child, return to school, or maybe lose your home to a hurricane? Change in all its iterations can reveal things from our pasts or facets of our personality we haven’t encountered before that can shake us to our core thus impacting our mental health. When those new and different situations or environments occur, and our tried and true methods no longer work that’s when we become frustrated, agitated, and act out of character. Mental health then is our ability to recognize that something hurts, something is off kilter, and I need to make a readjustment. Many people however feel that they should be able to handle these changes on their own and that can lead to what those of us in the field may call maladjustment or unhealthy coping mechanisms. Your ability to recognize that you do not have the tools to work through your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is the first step to seeking out the assistance you deserve. Mental health professionals recognize that many people have not been adequately taught how to deal with the demands of life in a healthy manner and when compounded by time (doing what “works” for 20-30 years) and trauma, seeking help and doing the hard work can feel like battle. However, we all owe it to ourselves to experience the fullness of what life has to offer and utilize all the assistance out there as we navigate all the challenges and changes life is sure to bring us.
Join me next time as I discuss how to begin your search for a mental health professional and how to determine if they will be a good fit for you. xoxo, Ade!