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World Mental Health Day

How would you define ‘mental health’? Some optimal aspects might include:

  • Peace of mind
  • Ability to function in the world
  • Freedom from anxiety and depression
  • Social ease in communicating thoughts
  • A sense of emotional balance
  • Healthy choices
  • Balanced relationships
  • Abscence of addiction
  • Minimal thought distortions
  • Preventing destructive emotions from raging out of control
  • Ability to recover from life challenges
  • Willingness to receive help when neeeded
  • Giving back/being of service
  • Ability to perform well and consistently on the job or school
  • Resilience in the face of whatever comes your way

Not sure I know anyone who has all of these tied up in a nice, tidy package. Hard to imagine a flesh and blood human being who isn’t impacted by family history, environment, internal and external stressors, physical health changes or aging. How we view these components and what we do as a result of them shapes our mental health status.

October 10th is designated as World Mental Health Day The WHO; no, not the iconic British Rock Group (although the song the lyrics to a song they perform echo with tinges of mental instability- Who Are You?)-  The World Health Organization created one day out of the year to focus on this form of wellbing. It is estimated that  one in five people in the U.S., or 43.8 million people, have mental health problems in a given year. This year, the attention is being placed on  ‘psychological first aid’.

The World Health Organization defines mental wellness as, “A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Consider the events existing in people’s lives, from the personal to the global.  Divorce, financial challenges, health crises, deaths, accidents, illness and abuse can occur on a daily basis. Compounding these ‘life getting lifey’ challenges, as a former client of mine would refer to them, are world events, such as war, shootings, the current election and the concurrent conflicts they arouse, natural  disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes,  and you have a recipe for a sour stew. When psychological woundings occur, first aid is what is called for before longer term solutions can be found. Cleaning out the emotional injuries might include crisis intervention such as a call to a hotline, a trusted therapist, mentor, family member or friend. If the severity of the condition extends beyond that, an evaluation at a crisis center may be in order to lessen the impact.  Admission to an acute care facility could be recommended. If there are addiction issues, entering an impatient rehab could be benficial.

As a career therapist with three decades of experience, I carefully steer clear of the term, ‘mental illness,’ since it is pejorative and can be stigmatizing. I focus on clients’ strengths and not just vulnerabilities. Some of them have come through my door with trauma that has been lifelong; others with diagnoses that have ranged from Bipolar Disorder to Schizophrenia, from Substance Abuse to Eating Disorders. Each has come with doubts that they will ever feel stable and ‘normal’. I have reminded them that ‘normal’ is relative and sometimes just a setting on a washing machine. They have compared themselves, often unfavorably, to the people around them and in the media. In an effort to fit in, they have engaged in behaviors, that when given consideration, they would never have, had they felt comfortable with who they were. These could take the form of self injury, indulging in high risk behaviors, plumetting into addiction or engaging in unhealthy relationships.

What Are Some Signs That You or Someonone You Know Needs Assistance?

  • Changes in mood or affect
  • Alteration of characteristic behavior
  • Sleep patterns disrupted: either sleeping excessively or not enough
  • Lack of interest in daily life
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Excessive tearfulness (recognizing that crying is a natural response to emotional shifts)
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Changes in speech patterns (rapid and hypo-manic or slow and lethargic)
  • Talking about the desire to self harm attempt suicide
  • Engaging in more addictive behaviors, such as increasing the amount of substances used or using with the intent to self medicate
  • Excessive spending
  • Confusion or agitation
  • Withdrawal and social isolation
  • Increase in anxiety and/or escalation to a state of panic
  • An ongoing sense of dread
  • Self medicating

Now What?

In the midst of a series of health crises, over the past two and a half years, I found myself exclaiming, “Oh my God, now what?”  It wasn’t a “Why me?” kind of question, but rather an expression of frustration that a trifecta (and then a few more for good measure) of challenges had faced me and I wasn’t sure what to do about them. I am not prone to depression or anxiety, but had been experiencing what could have presented that way. Sleep deprivation, awakening at all hours, palpitations which were of concern in the wake of a heart attack in 2014, a bit of confusion (which could have been attributed to a still busy schedule) and overwhelm. Rather than succumb, I turned to my default of resilience and reframed the question with a change of voice inflection, to “Okay, now what?”  It made all the difference in the world, so I could engage in possibility thinking.

What would it take to turn your ‘OMG now whats?’ to ‘OKAY, now whats?’

  • Consider your coping skills
  • Do something everyday that is self nurturing
  • Listen to music
  • Write (whether it is in a journal or a blog)
  • Draw or color (adult coloring books have become commonplace, when once they will considered just for children)
  • Spend time in nature
  • Be around animals
  • Recogize how far you have come and everything you have survived
  • Seek the services of a competent therapist
  • Make a list of your strengths
  • Have an attitude of gratitude
  • Read inspiring books
  • Listen to music that makes your heart sing
  • Spend time with people who nourish your soul
  • Dance
  • If you have a spiritual practice, add it to your healing tool box

World Mental Health Day

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

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APA Reference
Weinstein, E. (2016). World Mental Health Day. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Oct 2016
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