A Shift from Treating Mental Health to Promoting Wellness: A way to create sanity in an insane world.
By Sandra Y. Herrera-Spinelli, MSW, LCSW
After several decades as a clinical social worker and seeing hundreds of clients, it’s time I share my experience to instill hope in people that they can feel better and to inspire a different approach to “treatment” in mental health. The most common issues people seek treatment is to deal with anxiety and depression. The rates of adults diagnosed with anxiety and depression continue to increase every year, and now the trends can be seen in children.
According to the research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 20 children is being diagnosed with anxiety or depression in the United States. Doctors are prescribing anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications as normal supplements like vitamins. People are suffering in epidemic proportions and it is time to shift from treating the “disease” to validating a normal response to the insanity of the world.
The key is to shift the treatment focus from stopping the pain and discomfort and to validating the reactions to what’s happening in life. As a social worker, my training emphasized the person-in-environment, the environment influences a person’s functioning (i.e. work, school, home, income, physical health, politics, world events, etc..). A person’s mental health is influenced by what is going on around them.
So much relief can come from the acknowledgment that their emotional reaction is valid for the circumstance. It’s o.k. to be sad because of a breakup, to be angry to write up at work, to feel crazy raising three kids. In addition, the world we live in today is more complex than ever before.
The world is constantly changing with new technology and new devices to make life “easier”. There are so many benefits from the evolving technology, such as the ability to write this article and make it easily accessible to people. At the same time, the changing world introduces new demands. Although the easy access to information is helpful when you are lost and need to find an address, the easy access also introduces being connected to work 24/7, comparing your life to others in social media, and in extreme circumstance being bullied online.
Instead of seeing emotional reactions as deficits, it’s time to validate the emotional reactions as normal to the insane world. Normal emotional reactions to stressful life events, can easily be interpreted in a 10-minute medical appointment as an "mental illness." It’s time to shift from treating mental health to promoting mental wellness. Mental wellness means taking control of moments throughout the day to do things to feel a little better.
Promoting mental wellness is taking time to find relief in whatever situation you are facing at that moment. By breaking down wellness activities to moments throughout the day, instead of carving out “more” time from an already full schedule. Taking advantage of moments throughout the day, creates hope for a better feeling tomorrow. Quick wellness moments can be:
- Close your office door for a few minutes of silence.
- Stop watching the News Reports [do I need to say more].
- Step outside for a few minutes and to enjoy nature.
- Listen to music that makes you feel good.
- Use an essential oil diffuser to make it easy to breathe in calming scents.
- Eating lunch [seriously].
- Play with your kids for a few minutes before doing the household list.
- Be okay with whatever you are feeling.
- Make a list of the things you are thankful for.
- Choose not to argue and be open to another opinion.
Meditation, exercise, and healthy eating are constantly recommended by medical doctors because there are studies that show improved physical health. And it just as important to participate in activities that maintain good mental health. More importantly, there is a connection between mental health and physical health, which represent a person's overall well-being. Although the insane world can negatively impact our health, we can regain our power one moment at a time.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Stay tune to more information on how to integrate wellness into your daily activities.