Written by Helen Wells, clinical director at The Dawn.
In today’s climate we are talking about mental health more than ever before, but if we are serious about improving it, we need more evidence about which interventions really help. With an estimated 950 million people worldwide suffering from mental health illnesses, it is important to know how to communicate your mental health needs.
Time to Talk Day, which takes place on 1st February 2024, is the nation’ s biggest mental health conversation and a yearly awareness campaign to combat the stigma towards people who suffer with mental illnesses.
First introduced in 2014, Time To Talk Day draws attention to mental health and the importance of reaching out to others. The day aims to help people open up and be honest about mental health without the fear and stigma often attached to this sensitive topic.
It can be very daunting to express your own personal struggles and because of this, many people keep their feelings bottled up. By opening up and talking, the chances of those suffering seeking help increases, which can be crucial to the healing process.
Mental health has typically been associated with struggles or challenges brought on by difficult life events or health conditions. However, there are several other things that can affect mental health. To understand mental health in all its stages, it is important to assess where we are on the mental health continuum.
What is the mental health continuum?
The mental health continuum helps us see mental health outside of a binary concept of ‘well’ or ‘unwell’, instead placing it on a nuanced spectrum that can flow either gradually or quickly between stages. This is important, as it better orients us to how we are doing and gives us benchmarks by which to monitor our mental health and determine whether we need extra support.
When we are in a healthy stage on the mental health continuum, our mind and body is balanced, our outlook is positive, and we are able to manage challenges and stress with resiliency. We feel like we can manage our emotions and experience them without being completely overwhelmed. Our thinking is clear, our sense of humour is intact, and we can cope without the use of substances.
In the unsettled stage of mental health, we are realising that something feels off. We are edgy and not smiling or laughing as much as we usually do. We are not sleeping as well, and our appetite is either lower than usual or veering towards unhealthy comfort foods. We might not be sure exactly why we feel this way, but we know that something is bothering us.
When we are struggling in terms of the mental health continuum, we are beginning to lose control of our ability to manage our emotions. We may be overcome with anxiety, or consistently depressed. We start to feel like we can’t talk to anyone about what we’re feeling, even though we may have a sense that we need to.
• In Crisis
When someone is in crisis, they are actively suffering. Unable to control or mediate negative thoughts, the emotional pain of this stage is constant and severe. Exhaustion is common among those in crisis and completing even simple tasks like getting out of bed, brushing teeth, or getting dressed can feel impossible.
As awareness and understanding of mental health spreads worldwide, people are beginning to think beyond the illness aspect of mental health. It is important to identify what the stages are, and how to take action to better or maintain our mental health, is critical in promoting overall wellbeing.
Asking for help
Depending on your challenges, there are a variety of people you can seek out for support and guidance. If you are unsure of who to go to there are a few different options – and remember, if one person isn’t available don’t let that stop you from seeking out another option! When you are in a mental health crisis, making a connection isn’t just recommended it is absolutely critical for your health. You may seek help from:
• Family members, friends, or others you trust
• Human Resources department
• Mental Health hotline
• Healthcare providers
More information on coping with mental health issues and how you can overcome it can be found at The Dawn.
About the author
Helen is a certified trauma professional and a member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (Pacfa). At The Dawn, Helen is responsible for ensuring both its clinical programme and clients’ treatment strategies are aligned with The Dawn’s clinical philosophy – which includes a Trauma Informed Care (TIC) approach. Helen also oversees the clinic’s multidisciplinary team of psychologists and psychotherapist therapists, to ensure that all clients receive individualised treatment plans that she personally reviews with both the client and their focal therapist for maximum results.