Since this May is mental health awareness month, I want to talk about mental health and the impact it has in our lives. For those of us who have ever struggled with mental health issues, it’s important to understand that we are actually a part of the majority of people living in the United States.
In fact, one in four adults in the US will suffer from some form of a mental health issue in his or her lifetime. We are not alone.
It’s important to engage in supporting others with mental health issues, like our responders do at Spill. Peer responders provide confidential support for their peers by empathizing with their struggles and writing responses to them with feedback.
We can engage in conversations with people and educate them in order to eliminate the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues.
While it can be very empowering to acknowledge that depression or anxiety or whatever it is that ails us is a part of who we are, it can also be very powerful to recognize that any one part of who we are does not make up all of who we are. In other words, you are not your _____________________. Fill in the blank (with depression, anxiety, stress, anger, distress, sadness, etc.)
Some days it may feel like those less positive, painful, dark and difficult parts of us are who we are. But they’re not. We all have feelings. Moods. States of mind. And none of them are permanent. One moment I might feel completely hopeless about the state I’m in – crying for no apparent reason – feeling down in the dumps. And then next, I’m filled with extreme joy, exuberance and gratitude. Either way, I’m grateful that I’m able to feel things so deeply, and if that means feeling sorrow as often or as deeply as I feel pure joy, so be it.
There are some things we can do to cultivate the feelings we associate with happiness. The field of positive psychology operates under the understanding that while we have a happiness set point at 60% based on biological and environmental influences, we do have control over a good 40% of our happiness.
Those that study positive psychology will find that a few of the tenets to approach happiness include (to name a few):
-Find purpose and meaning.
-Develop and strengthen interpersonal relationships.
There are always things we can do to work towards cultivating the happier or more positive parts of ourselves. Sometimes, even the parts of ourselves we don’t like end up being where our strengths come from. Some of the most amazing artists, creative people, therapists and teachers have experienced depression or other debilitating illnesses at one time or another, and still do!
Much of the time, our closest friends, family and loved ones aren’t even aware of the fact that we’ve suffered from mental health issues. They don’t know it’s a part of us at all. If that’s not proof that our least favorite parts of ourselves don’t make up all parts of ourselves, then I don’t know what is.
(Note: Mental Health Disorders are very real, and oftentimes medical intervention is necessary. Please speak with a counselor if your mental health is suffering and interfering with day-to-day living.)
Young man photo available at Shutterstock.