How is Psychological Assistance Provided?
Allied health professionals can provide emotional and psychological support just through talking and listening.
Having their experiences of caring – the positives and negatives, the losses and the grief – heard and validated can bring a sense of relief to carers.
Carer support groups provide a place to talk, listen and learn from others in a similar situation.
Carers report that attending support groups has positive effects on their health and wellbeing.
This is largely due to the practice of ‘mutual aid’ and shared problem-solving resulting in feeling heard, normalizing feelings, and reducing isolation.
Some support groups for carers of a person living with mental health issues are facilitated by allied health professionals with skills in group work.
Some groups invite guest speakers to provide information about various topics suggested by the members of the group.
Counselors, psychologists, and social workers can:
listen in a non-judgemental and supportive way, and help carers identify and understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and develop strategies to assist.
Occupational therapists, psychologists, and neuropsychologists can:
provide explanations about the abilities and strengths of a person living with mental health problems, and where cognitive impairment can impact everyday function.
This understanding can support carers to provide specific care while encouraging independence where possible.
Mental health advisors, key workers, psychologists, and social workers can:
facilitate carer support groups.
Understanding good mental health
Your mental health influences how you think, feel and behave in daily life. It also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build relationships, and recover from life’s setbacks and hardships.
Strong mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.
People who are mentally healthy have:
- a sense of contentment.
- a zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
- the ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
- a sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
- the flexibility to learn new skills and adapt to change.
- a balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
- the ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
- self-confidence and high self-esteem.
The relationship between resilience and mental health
Having solid mental health doesn’t mean that you never go through bad times or experience emotional problems. We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress.
But just as physically healthy people are better able to bounce back from illness or injury, people with strong mental health are better able to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience.
People who are emotionally and mentally resilient have the tools for coping with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook. They remain focused, flexible, and productive, in bad times as well as good.
Their resilience also makes them less afraid of new experiences or an uncertain future. Even when they don’t immediately know how a problem will get resolved, they are hopeful that a solution will eventually be found.
Whether you’re looking to cope with a specific mental health problem, handle your emotions better, or simply feel more positive and energetic, there are plenty of ways to take control of your mental health — starting today.
How to boost your mental health
Anyone can suffer from mental or emotional health problems — and over a lifetime most of us will. This year alone, about one in five of us will suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Yet, despite how common mental health problems are, many of us make no effort to improve our situation.
We ignore the emotional messages that tell us something is wrong and try toughing it out by distracting ourselves or self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or self-destructive behaviors.
We bottle up our problems in the hope that others won’t notice. We hope that our situation will eventually improve on its own. Or we simply give up — telling ourselves this is “just the way we are.”
The good news is: you don’t have to feel bad. There are practices you can adopt to elevate your mood, become more resilient, and enjoy life more. But just as it requires effort to build and maintain physical health, so it is with mental health.
We have to work harder these days to ensure strong mental health, simply because there are so many ways that life takes a toll on our emotional well-being.
Why we often neglect our mental health needs
Even in today’s advanced world, many of us are often reluctant — or unable — to address our mental health needs. This can stem from a variety of reasons, including:
In some societies, mental and emotional issues are seen as less legitimate than physical issues. They’re seen as a sign of weakness or somehow as being our own fault.
Some people mistakenly see mental health problems as something we should know how to “snap out of.” Men, especially, would often rather bottle up their feelings than seek help.
In our fast-paced world, we’re obsessed with seeking quick, simple answers to complex problems.
We look for connection with others by compulsively checking social media instead of reaching out to people in the real world, for example. Or to boost our mood and ease depression, we’d rather pop a pill rather tackle the underlying issues.
Many people think that if they do seek help for mental and emotional problems, the only treatment options available are medication (which comes with unwanted side effects) or therapy (which can be lengthy and expensive).
The truth is that, whatever your issues, there are steps you can take to improve the way you feel and experience greater mental and emotional well-being. And you can start today!
Make social connection a priority — especially face-to-face
No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and function at your best.
Humans are social creatures with emotional needs for relationships and positive connections to others. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Our social brains crave companionship — even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.
Why is face-to-face connection so important?
Phone calls and social networks have their place, but nothing can beat the stress-busting, mood-boosting power of quality face-to-face time with other people.
The key is to interact with someone who is a “good listener” — someone you can regularly talk to in person, who will listen to you without their own conceptions of how you should think or feel. A good listener will listen to the feelings behind your words, and won’t interrupt, judge, or criticize you.
Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t make you a burden to others. Most people are flattered if you trust them enough to confide in them. If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, there are good ways to build new friendships and improve your support network.
In the meantime, there is still a great benefit to interacting face-to-face with acquaintances or people you encounter during the day, such as neighbors, people in the checkout line or on the bus, or the person serving you your morning coffee. Make eye contact and exchange a smile, a friendly greeting, or small talk.
- Tips for connecting to others
- Call a friend or loved one now and arrange to meet up. If you both lead busy lives, offer to run errands or exercise together. Try to make it a regular get-together.
- If you don’t feel that you have anyone to call, reach out to acquaintances. Lots of other people feel just as uncomfortable about making new friends as you do — so be the one to break the ice.
- Reconnect with an old friend, invite a coworker out for lunch, or ask a neighbor to join you for coffee.
- Get out from behind your TV or computer screen. Communication is a largely nonverbal experience that requires you to have direct contact with other people, so don’t neglect your real-world relationships in favor of virtual interaction.
- Be a joiner. Join networking, social, or special interest groups that meet on a regular basis. These groups offer wonderful opportunities for meeting people with common interests.
- Don’t be afraid to smile and say hello to strangers you cross paths with. Making a connection is beneficial to both of you—and you never know where it may lead!
Staying active is as good for the brain as it is for the body
The mind and the body are intrinsically linked. When you improve your physical health, you’ll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being.
Physical activity also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that lift your mood and provide added energy. Regular exercise or activity can have a major impact on mental and emotional health problems, relieve stress, improve memory, and help you to sleep better.
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