Mental Health Awareness: Promoting Well-being and Seeking Help

Mental Health Awareness: Promoting Well-being and Seeking Help

October is mental health month, the tenth of October being World Mental Health Day. However, ongoing mental health awareness promoting well-being and seeking help is critical to overall well-being, as it directly influences every facet of our lives. It is an issue that affects a significant portion of the population, with an estimated one in five adults experiencing a mental health condition each year (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). However, a pervasive stigma surrounding mental health still hinders individuals from seeking the help they need. We must prioritise mental health awareness, overcome barriers, and foster a positive and productive approach to mental well-being.

The Importance of Mental Health

Positive mental health is the foundation for navigating life’s challenges, fostering meaningful relationships, and making informed decisions. It impacts our thoughts, actions, and interactions, enabling us to lead fulfilling lives. Maintaining good mental health stabilises constructive behaviours, emotions, and thoughts. It enhances productivity, self-image, and relationships and positively impacts physical health.

The Benefits of Mental Health Care

Nurturing mental health yields numerous benefits, including:

  1. Improving Mood: Taking care of our mental health can enhance our mood and emotional well-being.
  2. Reducing Anxiety: Prioritising mental health care can help alleviate anxiety and promote a sense of calm.
  3. Enhancing Inner Peace: Investing in mental health promotes inner peace and tranquillity.
  4. Improved Clarity of Thought: Caring for mental health can sharpen cognitive abilities and promote clearer thinking.
  5. Strengthening Relationships: Mental health is crucial in building and maintaining healthy relationships.
  6. Boosting Self-esteem: Prioritising mental health contributes to a positive self-image and increased self-esteem.

It is important to note that mental health is not a one-time endeavour but a lifelong journey. It requires continuous awareness and care at every stage of life, from infancy through adulthood. Mental Health Awareness and promoting well-being must be a constant process.

Spreading Mental Health Awareness

Promoting mental health awareness serves several purposes, including destigmatising mental health issues and encouraging individuals to seek help. We can remove the shame and fear often associated with mental health by engaging in open and honest conversations. Increasing awareness also helps identify signs and symptoms of various conditions, enabling early intervention and improving treatment outcomes.

The Most Common Mental Health Conditions

Several mental health conditions are prevalent worldwide, such as anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and eating disorders. Anxiety disorders, affecting over 40 million adults in the United States alone, are prevalent (Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 2021). Despite their prevalence, many individuals do not seek treatment for these conditions.

Factors Influencing Mental Health

Numerous factors can influence mental health, either positively or negatively. Understanding these factors can help individuals take proactive steps towards maintaining their mental well-being.

Positive Influences on Mental Health

Several factors have a positive impact on mental stability and health:

  1. Therapy: Seeking therapy can provide valuable support and tools for managing mental health.
  2. Journaling: Engaging in journaling practices can enhance self-reflection and emotional processing.
  3. Mindfulness: Incorporating mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, can promote mental well-being.
  4. Exercise: Regular physical activity has been shown to affect mental health positively.
  5. Effective Communication: Developing strong communication skills can improve mental and emotional health.

Negative Influences on Mental Health

Conversely, certain factors can negatively impact mental stability and health:

  1. Past Trauma: Experiences of trauma, abuse, or neglect can have long-lasting effects on mental health.
  2. Chronic Stress: Long-term and severe stress can lead to adverse mental health outcomes.
  3. Social Isolation: Lack of social connections and isolation can contribute to poor mental well-being.
  4. Bereavement: Grief and loss can profoundly affect mental health and require support for healing.
  5. Socioeconomic Factors: Poverty, unemployment, and discrimination can negatively impact mental health.

It is crucial to be aware of these influences and take proactive steps to mitigate their adverse effects.

Seeking Help for Mental Health

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, it is essential to seek help promptly. Early intervention is critical to successful treatment. There are various avenues available for accessing mental health care and support.

Therapeutic Options

Individual or family therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment for addressing mental health concerns. Support groups, both in-person and online, offer opportunities to connect with others facing similar challenges. Community clinics and online services provide accessible resources for mental health care.

Crisis Intervention

In times of crisis or experiencing suicidal ideation, it is imperative to seek immediate help. Many Social Crisis Intervention Centres are available in global locals. In Hong Kong, The Samaritans offer an English, Cantonese and Mandarin 24-hour hotline: 2389 2222.

Additional Resources

Various resources, such as helplines, educational materials, and online tools, are available to support mental health. These can provide valuable information and guidance for individuals seeking assistance.

Conclusion

Promoting mental health awareness is of utmost importance for individuals and society. By removing mental health stigma and encouraging open dialogue, we can create an environment that supports well-being and seeks timely help when needed. Taking care of our mental health has numerous benefits, positively impacting our daily lives, relationships, and overall sense of self. It is crucial to prioritise mental health and seek support when facing challenges. Together, we can foster a society that values and supports mental well-being.

Liz McCaughey & AM Team

MsC., MoC. Member of: ACA, BACP

Please refer to the AM articles page for Liz and the AM Team articles.

Please complete the AMindset intake form if you want to start your therapy with an AM team member. Our therapists offer a FREE 20-minute introductory session for new clients.

If you are not quite ready, please click here to subscribe to the AMindset Newsletter with articles and podcasts to learn more about your mental health and how AM can help you.

Similar Articles

References:

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Accepting Situations: A Powerful Approach to Stress Management

Accepting Situations: A Powerful Approach to Stress Management

In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become an inevitable part of our lives. Whether it’s due to work pressures, personal challenges, or global events, stress can significantly impact our physical and mental well-being. Finding effective interventions to reduce stress and improve our quality of life is crucial, but access to such interventions can be limited and costly. Additionally, lack of time and stigma surrounding mental health may act as significant barriers. Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an intervention that is a powerful approach to stress management. Accepting situations allows us to move forward.

The Power of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

One approach that has shown promising results in stress management is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is a type of psychotherapy that emphasizes acceptance of negative thoughts, feelings, and circumstances while guiding individuals towards committing to values-based actions. Unlike traditional cognitive behavioural therapy, which focuses on reducing the frequency and severity of unpleasant experiences, ACT aims to reduce the struggle to control or eliminate these experiences. By increasing psychological flexibility, ACT helps individuals choose actions aligned with their personal values, even in the face of difficult thoughts and emotions.

Identifying Values: Living a Meaningful Life

One of the key components of ACT is identifying values. Values represent the areas of our lives that are important enough to motivate action. They reflect what we want to be about and stand for. By clarifying our values, we can align our actions with what truly matters to us. This process involves self-reflection and introspection to determine what gives our lives meaning and purpose. We must identify our values and how we feel about these values.

Commitment to Action: Moving Towards Values

Once values are identified, the next step is committing to action. This process involves changing our behaviour based on the principles covered in therapy. Every action we take can either bring us closer to or further from our values. By consciously choosing actions that align with our values, we can move towards living a more fulfilling and purposeful life. Words alone are not enough we must take action to change

Self as Context or Self as Observer: Separating Thoughts from Identity

In ACT, individuals learn to see themselves as separate from their thoughts and feelings. That does not mean we deny our thoughts or feelings, instead, we identify and allow them space. This concept, known as self as context or self as observer, allows us to make space for our thoughts and emotions without becoming entangled with them. This allows our true essence to remain constant despite the fleeting nature of our thoughts and feelings.

Cognitive Defusion Skills: Seeing Thoughts as Thoughts

Cognitive defusion is a technique used in ACT to separate ourselves from our inner experiences. It involves seeing thoughts simply as thoughts, stripped of the importance that our minds add to them. Various exercises can help with cognitive defusion, such as imagining thoughts on clouds and watching them drift away or making connections between thoughts and values. By practising cognitive defusion, we can develop a healthier relationship with our thoughts and detach ourselves from their influence.

Acceptance: Allowing Inner Experiences to Occur

Acceptance is a central principle in ACT. It means allowing our inner thoughts and feelings to occur without trying to change, control or ignore them. Acceptance is an active process that involves embracing our experiences without judgment or resistance. Instead of trying to control or eliminate our thoughts, the goal is to create a non-judgmental relationship with them. By accepting our inner experiences, we can reduce the struggle and suffering associated with trying to avoid or suppress them.

Present Moment Contact: Staying Mindful in the Here and Now

ACT therapy encourages individuals to stay mindful of their surroundings and to shift their attention away from internal thoughts and feelings. This process involves consciously and deliberately focusing on the present moment. By staying engaged with the present, we can develop greater awareness and prevent past experiences, memories, and conditioning from negatively affecting our interactions in the here and now.

Incorporating all six ACT processes helps individuals develop psychological flexibility and the freedom to choose their actions, even in the face of difficult thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges. By practicing ACT, individuals can cultivate healthier relationships with their internal experiences and live more fulfilling lives aligned with their values.

The Effectiveness of ACT-Based Self-Help

Access to therapist-led interventions may be limited or costly for many individuals seeking stress reduction techniques. To address this issue, a study examined the effectiveness of an ACT-based self-help book without therapist support for adults with moderate levels of stress and without psychiatric diagnoses. The study aimed to determine if a self-help approach could provide similar benefits to traditional therapist-led interventions.

Participants were recruited primarily through the website of the self-help book and various social media channels. They were randomly assigned to either an intervention group or a wait-list group. The study measured the primary outcome measure of stress and secondary outcome measures such as quality of life, worry, depressive symptoms, and burnout symptoms.

The results showed that the intervention group experienced significantly greater improvement in stress, worry, and all three subscales of the burnout questionnaire compared to the wait-list group. The effect on depressive symptoms was also significant. Interestingly, the study did not find robust evidence of mediation of outcomes through psychological flexibility or mindfulness. However, the number of pages read, the number of mindfulness exercises performed, and the perceived helpfulness of the weekly assignments significantly predicted changes in stress levels.

Furthermore, the gains in the intervention group remained at the 6-month follow-up, suggesting the long-lasting effectiveness of the self-help approach. This success of the self-help group demonstrates that positive outcomes can be achieved without the need for a therapist, as therapy can be expensive and not affordable for everyone. AMindset has introduced low-cost counselling  (LCC) to assist people who do want professional help but have not previously been able to afford it.

Benefits of ACT Therapy: Psychological Flexibility and Self-Compassion

One of the core benefits of ACT therapy is its impact on psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility refers to the ability to embrace our thoughts and feelings when they are useful and to set them aside when they are not. This allows us to respond thoughtfully to our inner experiences and avoid impulsive actions. By developing psychological flexibility, individuals can accept and function with symptoms like anxiety or depression, significantly improving their overall well-being.

ACT therapy also helps individuals cultivate greater self-awareness and self-compassion. By building a different relationship with their internal experiences, individuals learn to relate to themselves and their inner narrator with kindness and gentleness. This shift in perspective fosters a more compassionate and nurturing environment within oneself, promoting emotional well-being and resilience.

How Effective Is ACT Therapy?

ACT therapy is often considered a “third wave” or “new wave” psychotherapy, emphasizing acceptance and mindfulness-based strategies over cognitive restructuring. Traditional cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on challenging and changing difficult thoughts and feelings, while ACT focuses on accepting difficult emotions and developing a loving relationship with them. ACT helps individuals change their relationship with their minds and internal experiences, allowing them to have more freedom in choosing their actions.

Research supports the effectiveness of ACT in treating a wide range of conditions, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and even physical conditions and chronic pain. ACT has been shown to improve symptoms and quality of life for individuals with moderate levels of stress, even without therapist support. The self-help approach of ACT-based interventions provides a cost-effective alternative for those seeking stress reduction techniques. AMindset has also introduced cost-effective approaches using its low-cost counselling  (LCC) therapists.

Things to Consider: ACT vs. Other Therapies

While ACT has shown promising results in stress management, it is essential to consider that it may be as helpful as other available forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Some proponents of CBT argue that ACT, like other third-wave therapies, does not represent a significantly different approach. However, studies have shown that ACT can be effective for individuals who may not have benefited from pre-existing treatments. The emphasis on acceptance and mindfulness-based strategies sets ACT apart from traditional CBT approaches, making it a valuable option for stress management.

Getting Started with ACT Therapy

If you’re interested in exploring ACT therapy, AMindset has therapists who offer ACT. ACT therapy sessions typically involve reviewing the previous week, examining behaviours inconsistent with values, and using ACT processes to work through barriers. Therapists may teach techniques such as acceptance, cognitive defusion, and mindfulness exercises to foster non-judgmental awareness of thoughts and feelings. Homework assignments may also be given to practice and reinforce ACT principles between sessions.

Remember, stress is a natural part of life, but it doesn’t have to control us. By embracing acceptance and committing to actions aligned with our values, we can navigate through challenging situations with resilience and lead a more fulfilling life. ACT therapy provides a powerful framework for developing psychological flexibility and cultivating self-compassion. Start your journey towards accepting situations today and experience the transformative impact it can have on your well-being.

Liz McCaughey & AM Team

MsC., MoC. Member of: ACA, BACP

Please refer to the AM articles page to read more articles by Liz and the AM Team

Please complete the AMindset intake form if you want to start your therapy with an AM team member. Our therapists offer a FREE 20-minute introductory session for new clients.

If you are not quite ready, please click here to subscribe to the AMindset Newsletter with articles and podcasts to learn more about your mental health and how AM can help you.

Similar Articles

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.