How to Promote Mental Health
When we talk about mental health we refer to the psychological well-being of a person with or without a mental illness. If we promote mental health efficiently, then hopefully we are preventing people from becoming mentally ill. Some will interpret promoting mental health as raising awareness for those with mental illness and to an extent this is true.
By bringing attention to the fact that we should all have a sense of well-being, we are also bringing into account the consequences that can result if we don’t. If important factors are addressed, such as the biological, psychological and social needs of a person, both mental health and physical health will be promoted in a positive way.
Who Can Promote Mental Health and How?
Our children need to feel happy and whole. Sometimes in life parents encounter difficult circumstances such as poverty and illness. Indeed some parents may have a disabled son or daughter, or perhaps their child has a chronic illness and this can have a detrimental affect on their mental health. Marriages become strained under such stressful situations too.The fact is that parents need to be emotionally and physically supportive towards their children but equally there may be circumstances where those parents need a lot of extra support for their mental health.
A good relationship in which a child can share feelings with his parents and thus any problems or worries is of paramount importance. Teenage years can be particularly difficult years as social pressures build and parents should be aware of any outside factors that may be influencing the mental welfare of their child. Most of all they should ideally have the skills to know what to do in any worrying circumstances. A parent can help a child by:
- Giving praise – helping a child to gain self confidence
- Encouragement – helping their child to achieve
- Meeting the physical needs of the child
- Building a good sense of communication and rapport
- Making it known that you are always available to approach with any problems
- Knowing who to ask for support when finding it all too difficult
Of course disabled parents should have a good support network too.
Schools can play an important role in promoting mental health. Working together with the parent, any problematic situations can be addressed efficiently. Important social skills are learned at school and if there appears to be a problem socially this should be picked up and addressed. Schools often have a network of professional bodies to which they can turn when needing additional support with a vulnerable child.
There may be problems with learning difficulties, bullying, physical problems and signs of neglect or mental illness. Behavioural problems often first come to light within the school environment so it is important that all schools have something in place to deal with this.
A bad school that is not observant of its children and does not encourage a healthy environment, in which a child feels safe, can have a very negative impact on the future of a child. If children at risk are provided with the correct support from an early age by both parents and schools they have a better chance in later life of becoming well adjusted, mentally healthy adults.
Public Health and Government
The government by way of public policies works with all individuals and communities to help dispel any discrimination with regard to mental health. They aim to make sure that those who are suffering a mental health problem have the correct support in place and are included in society. They work with all environments including the workplace and schools, to ensure support structures are in place for the well-being of the general public.
Everyone should have access to primary care and psychological services, including therapies if the need arises. The government takes into account the problems posed by all inequalities, poverty and run down or disadvantaged areas where risks of mental illness may be more prevalent. Through social services, they must make sure that adequate support is in place for all vulnerable groups in society, such as the mentally ill, the disabled, disadvantaged families, the elderly and the homeless. Social inclusion is vital to good mental health. The policy makers must work closely with those professionals and charitable schemes that deliver services to those who are vulnerable and at risk. Of course unemployment and drug problems are also areas of concern.
You and the Community
The community offers many services or projects to those groups who may be at risk of mental health problems. Often reliant on funding, such support structures aim to help those people who encounter challenging situations in life and thus are open to start having mental health problems. They are good for preventing a mental illness or crisis, and without these many more people may end up on medication or having to use mental health services. We should not forget the Samaritans of course who do a wonderful job but there are other groups who offer support such as:
- Support for those who have been raped
- Women’s Aid -domestic violence or abuse support
- Support for carers of those who are ill, disabled or mentally ill
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Cruise for bereavement support
- Victim support
- Gay men and women support
- Befriending services and ‘sitters’ who spend time with the elderly
Gain the necessary skills to help your community
There are many groups that help to bring a sense of well being to those suffering or going through a hard time. Just the fact that this kind of support exists is comforting. Whether you have a mental illness or not, you can become active in learning the skills required and taking the appropriate training, to help promote mental health. Whether in a paid or voluntary capacity, there may be much you can do in your community. Offering to go to someone’s home and style their hair, help with a new baby or baby-sit, qualifies as other ways to promote a feeling of well-being. Actually both you and the person derive something from doing things such as this. If you feel passionately about promoting mental health and spreading awareness, here are some ideas of what else you could do personally.
Offering a few hours a week to help run a help line, a forum or a chat room is a good idea. This kind of work helps to prevent mental illness. If you have suffered yourself with a certain issue then you especially have valuable support to give.
National help lines such as NHS Direct, Childline, Samaritans, UK National Drugs Helpline and National Bullying Helpline all serve to prevent mental illness and promote mental health. There are more and more chat rooms and forums to be found on the internet that are not all about mental illness but about topics such as parenting, bereavement, physical health issues and so on.
In the UK, the mental health charity Rethink not only supports those who have a mental illness but also campaign for a better quality of services and health policies. Actress Judy Dench and comedian Ruby Wax are some of the celebrities who support this charity. Join Rethink and become a campaigner or help to raise funds for the good of mental health issues. You could also find out how you can take part in World Mental Health Day.
If you have a mental health problem you could offer to talk about it at a local school or college. Ignorance and lack of education about mental illness becomes a breeding ground for stigma and discrimination.
Address Your Own Mental Health
Everyone in this world wants and needs to be loved, cared for and supported in times of distress but what can you do for your own mental health?
- You should look at how you feel about yourself. Is your life riddled with guilt, self esteem issues, anxiety or periods of low moods? How can you help yourself to avoid being diagnosed with a mental illness?
- Find a good general doctor that you can confide in and do offload to friends and relatives if the need arises
- Accept help if help is offered. Don’t be too proud to admit you are struggling
- If you feel useless and isolated in society, make steps to change this by becoming involved in something that interests you in the community
- If you are an angry person, find ways to channel that anger into something positive or get counseling to learn how to address it
- Make use of local support groups during particularly stressful times
- Use the help lines found nationally to avert a personal crisis
- Get enough sleep, exercise, don’t drink too much alcohol and eat more healthily
- Find ways to relax or have time out regularly
- If you are a carer, make sure you get support too