There is a certain mystery with the term “mental health.” It has become one in the same with “mental illness” or “mental health problem,” and not the correct meaning - being mentally healthy. One question that is front of mind these days is how do we prevent mental health problems or illness? But where I would like to take us is this: how do we keep our kids, and ourselves, mentally healthy? Let’s dive into the distinction between these two ideas for a moment.
First of all, let’s take a look at the difference between mental distress, mental health problems and mental illness. Dr. Stanley Kutcher, a mental health expert, explains that mental distress is something everyone experiences every day, and is our brain’s natural reaction to daily events. Mental distress is good for us and can be helpful for our minds to learn and grow in new ways. One way we try to prevent mental health problems is to avoid mental distress. However, this could have negative effects such a poor development of coping skills and worsened mental health problems. The more we can learn to manage and cope with mental distress, the more we will be able to bounce back from life’s problems, this is called resilience. Mental distress is often good for us. It helps us solve problems, create new ideas and learn new skills. Finding the right balance of mental distress is key, as too much can lead to mental health problems.
Moving up the ladder from mental distress, Kutcher further explains that mental health problems are our brain’s response to more persistent life problems such as divorce or persistent victimization from others. It is important to understand that this occurs many times during anyone’s lifetime and displays that sometimes we need a little help to cope and bounce back from life’s more persistent difficulties. Family, friends, and supports have a big role to play in helping someone experiencing a mental health problem. Coaching and modelling healthy responses to difficulties is important, as well as listening, support, and good old fashioned time.
Sometimes, mental health problems do require assistance from a mental health professional such as a counsellor, mental health worker, social worker or therapist (among others). The benefits of working through a mental health problem with caring people in your life are imperative for successful emotional support and development.
Now, moving on to mental disorders, or mental illness for another familiar term. A mental disorder occurs when an individual’s brain is not functioning as it should, and this causes significant difficulties in their life. Mental disorders require treatment and diagnosis from professional mental health staff along with persistent family and friend support. Mental disorders are caused by a combination of genetic and situational or environmental factors and affect approximately 20% of the population.
If we can shift the focus from avoiding mental distress or mental health problems to being mentally healthy, we can embrace the positivity of experiencing hardship and focus on growth and wellness.
Consider the following when you evaluate your or your child’s mental health:
- Able to enjoy life – Can you live in the moment and appreciate the “now”? Are you able to learn from the past and plan for the future without dwelling on things you can’t change or predict?
- Resilient – Are you able to bounce back from hard times? Can you manage the stress of a serious life event without losing your optimism and sense of perspective?
- Balanced – Are you able to juggle the many aspects of your life? Can you recognize when you might be devoting too much time to one aspect, at the expense of others? Are you able to make changes to restore balance when necessary?
- Self-realization – Do you recognize and develop your strengths so that you can reach your full potential?
- Flexible – Do you feel (and express) a range of emotions? When problems arise, can you change your expectations – of life, others, yourself – to solve the problem and feel better?
For more information and resources, go to www.teenmentalhealth.org. You can also contact the Prairie Mountain Health Child & Adolescent Treatment Centre at 1-866-329-5459 for youth, 204-578-2400 for adults or visit the Prairie Mountain Health website.
Click here for more information on Mental Health Week.
Source: Dr. Stan Kutcher ONS, MD, FRCPC, FCAHS, Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health and Director World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Mental Health Policy and Training, Dalhousie University and IWK Health Centre.
Mental Health Week Events
CMHA Swan Valley Fundraiser BBQ - Wednesday, May 8 from 11-2 at Swan River Extra Foods Store.
CMHA Swan Valley Soup and Bun Lunch with Live Entertainment - Friday, May 10 starting at 12:00 at the CMHA Main Office
Full list of Mental Health Awareness Events held during Mental Health Week in Swan River.
Dauphin HERO Club Official Re-opening - Thursday, May 9 from 10-1 at 234 1st Ave. NE