As the month of October holds Mental Health Awareness day, and with this being a self-development blog that discusses mental and relational well-being, it’s only right that I share some insights regarding mental health. As we’re increasingly more aware there are very real challenges to navigating and supporting mental health in a proactive and healthy way. Existing stigmas surrounding mental health perpetuated through lack of education and understanding, only continue to increase the rate of psychological deficits left untreated. Therefore, it’s important that we make an active effort to ensure that we are not enabling individual and cultural psychological decline, so I composed a short list of things you may not know about mental health below.
HERE’S WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH!
It’s NOT a choice!
Cultural stigmas surrounding mental health support assumptions and myths that mental health deficits are avoidable and or a choice, but that could not be further from the truth. Mental illnesses often present as a form of biological and or genetic dispositions and can be perpetuated through one’s experience and environment. Therefore, the ability to navigate mental illness is very individualized in that our surroundings and the overconsumption (or lack thereof) of trauma may very well impair (or support) our ability to negate or healthily navigate mental health issues.
It’s different for all of us!
Psychological deficits manifest and present in varying ways, not only is symptom presentation variable by individual but as alluded above, it also is impacted by our individual/cultural perception and often prolonged and perpetuated by our experiences. To fully support understanding without getting too scientific, we all uniquely navigate the world, therefore, it should be anticipated that mood, compulsiveness, attention deficits and schizophrenia originate individually and are addressed and managed differently. So there should be no assumption that these illnesses look the same from one person to the next. Therefore, fundamentally, we will respond to, perceive and psychologists will treat mental illnesses differently.
Environment and experience matter!
What is often not considered is just how much our experiences and environment contribute to the development of and sustained challenges as a result of mental illnesses. Our environment and experience are factors in determining how well and how quickly we navigate mental illness based on the tools we’ve acquired. Just to give a more concrete example, with consideration to social injustices, the extremities of the trauma experienced by those who are severely beaten, racially profiled, and or murdered at the hands of law enforcement is not only traumatic for the individual whose actions lead to the unfortunate incident, the victim, and their family but is very often just as triggering and traumatic for those who continue to witness to these incidents via social media. When we think about trauma it’s important that we too consider that all parties involved as well as those who witness, whether first or secondhand are also impacted and impaired by their experience. And that impairment can be either long or short-term. Therefore, again, our environment and experience matter, and very generously contribute to the potential for prolonged deficits as a result of traumatic exposure.
Intelligence is not dictated by mental health challenges!
If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve heard that incompetence and mental health are synonymous I’d be rich. This is frankly just not accurate. Mental illness does not mean someone lacks intelligence or the capacity to learn. However, that’s not to say that mental health can’t impair cognition to a point, in the short or long term, but it is certainly not because someone lacks intelligence altogether. Typically cognition is impacted by mental illness solely because of the individual’s state of being. However, as that state shifts (improves) their capabilities resume. But just to be clear, mental illness is not the sole factor in determining someone’s intelligence. So let’s not continue to perpetuate this fallacy.
Medication does not mean “crazy”!
Psychotropic medications are not an indicator of “crazy”. From my perspective, what taking psychotropic medication says about the prescribed is that they recognize that challenges at present require additional aid to ensure that they can function as they feel they “normally” would. And normal is subjective. Although we like to place definitions on what “normal” should be, we certainly need to make ourselves more aware of the fact that our experiences are unique, therefore our needs vary, and so do our perceptions of normalcy.
Thus, if we can get away from defining what we think is normal, as it is essentially relative, we would do ourselves a great service by recognizing that we are not all the same, and subsequently will do better at accepting people where they are, with the experiences they have had.
THE TAKE AWAY
While this blog post by no means captures all of the negative connotations associated with mental illness, it is a starting point, to prompt necessary conversations for a greater understanding. It’s intended to initiate perception changes. We really are a self-consumed society that fails to actively consider that we are all unique. But with that understanding, comes the realization that the way that we experience and navigate the world is very individualized.
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