Embracing Your Mental Health
What comes to mind when you think mental health?
This is something each one of us have to keep asking ourselves as we continue the journey of embracing and improving our mental health. Our mental health comprises of the thoughts we have, the feelings they influence in us and the consequent behaviors they lead to.
One may then wonder why each one of experience a whole gamete of varying emotions and at different points in our lives? Trying to understand this quite often can be the first step to embracing your mental health.
Start by visualising your mental health as a line, a continuum, with two arrows on both the ends of the continuum, which signify that there is no end or fixed point. This means that your mental health is on a spectrum and it keeps going as your life keeps happening.
We are all somewhere on the continuum, depending on given moments. We all move from one point to another point on this continuum throughout our lifetime depending on the stressors in our life and other factors that affect our mental health.
They are factors that are very unique to each one of us and our mental health and fall largely into four categories, they are the 4 “P’s” of Mental Health:
Predisposing factors: These are risky conditions, and are factors that make us vulnerable, like flying a plane with a heavier load to begin with. They include biological factors, family history of mental illness, social factors – oppression, discrimination and inequity, cultural factors – health beliefs, Intra-personal factors – self-concept, personal beliefs, etc., Determinants of health – poverty, unemployment, under-housing, etc., Interpersonal factors – social exclusion and isolation, poor social skills, etc.
Precipitating factors: These are triggers, like when we experience something stressful, like a plane experiencing turbulence. They contribute to the immediate mental health problem or crisis. They include acute stress or worry related to work or family demands, significant loss – e.g’s divorce, death of someone significant, job, physical trauma.
Perpetuating factors: They are repeating pressures and they keep the mental health problem going. They are the longer ongoing stressful life situations or events that happen over and over again. Although we may want to “pull up” the plane, there may be factors like bad wind currents that continue to keep us down. Experiences of systemic oppression or discrimination, barriers to success, services or supports, poor physical health, poor rest/sleep, isolation, chronic negative emotions or pessimism.
Protective factors: As the name suggests these are factors that contribute to good mental health or act as protection. They are those “shields or defenses” that help to balance the risks of mental illness. Healthy attachment and positive early life relationships, experiences of success, supportive family and social networks, satisfying occupations and hobbies, good physical health and other supports. Protective factors are where we see hope, and the fact that things can still be in our advantage even if the other 3 P’s are not in our favour.
This is also where counselling comes in. The process of counselling can serve as a huge protective factor in supporting you through the process of balancing the first 3 P’s of your mental health and help you embrace positive mental health.
Anne Sureshkumar, MSW, RSW is experienced in the areas of stress management and racial/cultural identity, plus many more. For more information on Anne and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.