mental health hygiene

Stop the stigma – we all can improve our mental health hygiene May 6, 2015

We as a society have advanced in many ways and in many fields, from new technologies to advances in the sciences, and improvements in medical and health care treatments…  Though in the mental health field, sometimes I feel that we are still in the dark ages due to the stigma that continues today. A stigma we need to rid ourselves of. Stigma defined is: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. The shear definition of the word is ugly. We wouldn’t consider a person, much less a loved one, who has diabetes to be a disgrace. I choose the disease of diabetes because it is a serious disease that impacts a person’s lifestyle and can become more complicated if left unmanaged. Also, the onset of diabetes can be genetic or environmental. So it appears our physical health and mental health are similar in pathology.  For these powerful reasons, this stigma is unacceptable in the year 2015! I BELIEVE WE KNOW BETTER…

–I get it, I get it. I realize that anything related to “our feelings” or “our fragile egos” in our society tends to be avoided or silenced from the pain. Once again, I believe we know better here. We all must deal with pain.  From my vantage point mental health is paramount to physical health, happiness, and life satisfaction in general. We all have a mental life, so by default we all have mental health hygiene to perform by nature of being human. We can expect ups and downs in our lives. We can also expect to experience our mental health in positive and negative ways just as we will experience positive and negative events with our physical health. We handle these experiences in one way or another; some helpful; some unhelpful. We are physical, mental, and spiritual beings as it stands and that is not going to change. When we avoid anyone of these domains we will experience a deficit and imbalance—Dis-ease if you will.

For some people, mental health difficulties can be a constant source of problems while for others it flairs up with precipitating events just like any other health concern or issue. Yet still for others acute mental health concerns can build into chronic mental health problems. The question is. Do we have the courage and skills from a practiced mental health hygiene regimen?  When we as a society accept mental health as an integral part of our lives and address it accordingly, we can change our world and everyone in it.

When considering our childhoods, most people are familiar and can accept the concept of experiencing an overactive imagination and creativity. What if we viewed mental health from this perspective? For instance, what may once have been an overactive imagination and creativity has transmuted and become more negative or self-defeating in direction. Our experiences, traumas, and genetics, combined with our private thoughts, feelings, fears, and behaviors can lead us into unhealthy patterns in our youth and our advancing age. Some of these patterns may not appear to be necessarily unhealthy until a precipitating event, such as a loss or extreme stress occurs. Considering the variety of mental health symptoms that can affect and impair us, we can connect how from an overactive imagination and creativity pathology can form. Mental health symptoms such as anxiety, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, or depression, even hearing voices or experiences of other hallucinations could be said to have originated from our experiences and our over active imaginations.  Just like symptoms of a physical disease, mental health symptoms, if left to their own devices, can consume us.

From the purview of mental health as imagination and creativity we can empower ourselves to deal more resolutely with our history of experiences that have led us to our repetitive, painful, and self-defeating thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Individually, we have blind spots within our mental lives that we cannot see because we are the too busy experiencing them. Also, one cannot know what they don’t know in the ways of skills that can help create and improve mental health hygiene thus create and improve physical health, life satisfaction, and general wellbeing. But… One person at a time must break the cycle of stigma and must be willing to share their experiences with others in order to help change their own world and impact society for its betterment. This process begins by seeking an objective third party who is trained to mirror the blind spots, reflect the healthy from the unhealthy patterns, and engage skills that facilitate helpful imagination and creativity. It’s time for a mental health hygiene regimen. It’s time to advance in our lives and our society.


Aaron Foster

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