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BEC: Mental health no laughing matter

Vania Patrick-Drakes

BEC: Mental health no laughing matter

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Consider two injured athletes waiting to be seen at a doctor’s office. Athlete No.1 has broken his leg, while athlete No.2 has a broken wrist.

The doctor, tired from a long working day, regards both patients for a moment and then summons athlete No.1 into his office, sending the athlete with the broken wrist home.

“It’s just a wrist,” is his reasoning. “You don’t need that for running.” As a society, we are rightly given detailed instructions on how to take care of our bodies; eat whole foods, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and rest.

However, our mental health, like the analogous athlete’s wrist, is often disregarded. “Mental” a late Middle English word, is derived from the latin mens, meaning “mind”.

Mental health, therefore, literally refers to the health of one’s mind. The human mind controls much more than just thoughts – one’s social, emotional and psychological well-being are all under the brain’s command. This means that the nature of one’s perceptions, moods, and even interactions with others, is dictated by the health of this highly specialised organ.

The significance, then, of the human brain is unquestionable. Mental health is not static; positive mental health during one stage of life does not guarantee positive mental health at a later stage. Just like the heart, leg or any other organ can become diseased, the brain is susceptible to a number of illnesses that can be manifested in a myriad of ways, including mood disorders, eating disorders, and anxiety disorders.

Mental illnesses are significant in that they decrease a person’s capacity to function and cope with everyday life challenges. Just like a fall can result in physical wounds, psychological, environmental or biological factors can contribute to the manifestation of mental illness. Common examples of contributing factors include emotional trauma, drug use, or brain injury.

Typical misconceptions are that mental illnesses are rare, or a sign of weakness.

“That can’t happen to me.” “Depression? He needs to toughen up.”

The reality is that mental illnesses are “equal opportunity”, affecting persons of any gender, age, ethnicity, and social background. Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes, or even heart disease, and are as easily overcome through willpower alone, as is a broken leg. Fortunately, mental illness can be managed.

Many persons who have experienced mental illness can live highly functional lives with appropriate treatment, which varies depending on the type of illness and its severity.

Regularly engaging in self-care is one of the most powerful ways to maintain positive mental health. Amidst the bustle of life’s obligations, set time aside to establish and engage in hobbies, listen to positive music, and nurture personal relationships.

Unplug from electronics ever so often and enjoy life in its natural, unencumbered state.

Rest. Engaging in regular introspection is a helpful tool to promote self-awareness. Most important, ask for help if it is needed. It is a sign of strength, and plays an integral role in the upkeep of positive mental health.