Through the natural course of life, there are times when we need professional help tending to the health of our bodies, like when we break a bone or have an infection. Similarly, there are times when we may need support tending to our psychological and emotional well-being, too. Mental health awareness most definitely involves having compassion and understanding for those struggling with severe, long-term mental health issues. But we can also have mental health self-awareness -- recognizing when we each might need some extra support or guidance dealing with issues such as . . .
Loss and grief - experiencing a death or other type of loss of someone or something important to us
Relationship changes – getting married or entering a new level of relationship commitment, or dealing with a strained relationship or breakup
Life transitions - beginning or ending a new job, moving, buying a home, new health challenges, or the birth or adoption of a child
Historically, seeking support for mental health and well-being often carried a heavy stigma. And while, unfortunately, this can still be true, attitudes seem to be shifting. More people are recognizing the potential benefits of seeking professional help when facing difficult life circumstances.
Yet, sometimes mental health issues arise when there are no obvious life circumstances to point to. Therefore, mental health self-awareness also involves recognizing internal dysregulation regardless of the current events happening in our lives. It’s important to identify signs of potential cognitive, emotional, and behavioral distress. Answering “yes” to some of the following questions can help determine if it may be time for a mental health check-up . . .
Do my thoughts focus on worry, doubt, or harshness towards myself or others?
Am I repeating the same thoughts in my mind (ruminating), and I can’t seem to stop them?
Does my thinking seem fuzzy or scattered . . . or am I often “checked-out?”
Am I experiencing barriers to feeling a full range of emotions, or an absence of emotions?
Do I feel stuck in certain emotions, such as sadness, fear, or anger?
Do I find myself bouncing between various extreme emotions?
Am I engaging in behaviors that are problematic -- that I know aren’t in my best interest?
Am I not doing things that I know are important or beneficial for me?
Do I find myself doing certain things addictively or compulsively in ways that feel hard to stop?
If you said “yes” to any of the questions above, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 20% of adults (one in five) live with some degree of mental illness, ranging from mild to severe. Many believe therapists focus only on helping people with severe mental illness, but that’s not true. Therapists can support people with the daily struggles of life, helping to address mental health issues early on before problems become more severe. Therapists can help with learning cognitive and emotional self-care practices – much like we learn to brush and floss regularly, exercise, and eat well. In this sense, mental health awareness means learning to take care of ourselves psychologically in the ways we need and deserve.
Lou Bardach is currently a student intern at Cypress Wellness Center working toward LCSW licensure as a master’s in social work student at the University of Central Florida. He is also studying the Internal Family Systems psychotherapeutic model through the IFS Institute’s introductory Online Circle program. He believes that health and well-being are cultivated through self-care -- by learning to become one’s own compassionate caregiver. As a gay man experienced in working with LGBTQ+ adolescents and adults, Lou is particularly interested in helping others heal from the effects of homophobia, transphobia, and other types of social oppression (ProjectNoLabels.org). Contact him/them at Lou@cypresswellnesscenter.com