Seeking help: Are there key markers to take note of for your mental health?
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This is a continuation from PAUSE's monthly discussion, this time examining the notions of identity, individuality, the power of the mind and consequences of us not being as in tuned with our own mind, as we should. Read more on the discussion here.
Everyone is different – there is no handbook that will help identify everyone and anyone who requires mental health assistance. But as a baseline, we all can ask ourselves these very simple questions, which we must be willing to answer honestly:
Am I suffering?
If yes, do I know why am I suffering?
- If I know why, do I have immediate solutions that can help ease my suffering, whatever that may be?
- If the answer to this is ‘no, I have no solutions to alleviate the pain of what I’m going through’ , then it’s likely that you might need help to help you out of the situation you are in.
- At this point, ask yourself: am I willing to seek help? Do I know who to turn to?
Am I numbing my feelings via isolation, the over consumption of alcohol, food, drugs and/or other vices etc.?
- If yes, do I know why I am doing this?
- If I do know why I am doing this, is it something that I can move on from, by talking to a friend or confidant about it?
- If the answer to this is ‘no, it’s not something I think I can move on from’, then it’s likely that you might need to seek help. In this case, ask yourself, am I ready to seek help to help me overcome what I am doing to numb my feelings?
Am I losing touch with myself? i.e. expressing / unleashing bouts of uncontrollable emotions? E.g. fits of rage, acts of violence, debilitating episodes of crying, excessive shouting, long periods of uninterrupted silence etc.
- If yes, can I pin-point if it was a one-off occurrence that can be attributed to a certain incident?
- If yes, can I put this incident behind me in a way that won’t trigger the uncontrollable emotions again?
- If the answer to this is ‘no, I cannot put this incident behind me, and I cannot be sure that I won’t express the same uncontrollable emotions’, then you might need mental health assistance.
- If this is the case, ask yourself, are you ready to seek help?
Again, these are the baseline questions we can ask ourselves anytime we feel that we are not managing our mind or body well – be aware that it does not replace the emotional support a friend can give, nor does it replace the guidance of a psychotherapist or a robust diagnosis by a trained clinical psychologist.
If you have no access to a psychologist or psychotherapist, or are shy to seek help from them, please note that there are many toll-free hotlines available to call. Some numbers can be found here and here.
TAKING CARE OF THE MIND – MEDITATION & MORE
Earlier on, we talked about how meditation is central in the act of keeping in touch with our mind, and therefore keeping it healthy and sound. Incorporate the following into your meditative practice:
1) Diaphragmatic breathing
Most of us are shallow breathers - we need to learn to breathe deeply because it really helps with maintaining our overall cognitive function and general well-being. Breath is life, and if we can only treat it with more respect, we can ‘unlock’ its immense potential to help keep us mentally alert and healthy.
2) A ‘shower’ for the mind: Meditation begets awareness; awareness begets healthy mental state
Think of meditation as a space where you meet yourself. It’s also where you ‘rinse’ out the chatter in your mind, like how we send our clothes to the laundry so that we can keep wearing it. The mind needs that sort of ‘re-set’ ever so often, too. Maintaining a practice allows one to cultivate self-awareness – which is crucial because only with self-awareness can you know and understand if you require help or not.
Dawn Sim, Counsellor and Psychotherapist at The Open Centre, emphasised on the power of such preventive measures. “For me, it’s about equipping individuals with a skill set to keep away from having to experience chronic depression and the dark consequences of it. I teach mindfulness at The Open Centre because I want to help people nurture tenacious minds that they are very attuned to and aware of. Prevention is the best cure for any mental health issue.”
“Of course,” Dawn adds, “prevention may at times, not be the viable option; in such cases one can turn to his or her support system. When someone in needs turns to their support system, it is then on the support system to try to intervene as much as possible – this means that we have to take it upon ourselves to help the the person seek up. This is of course, easier said than done, because we are generally in a society that keeps to ourselves, especially when it comes to such ‘taboo’ topics like addressing a mental health issue. But frankly, what we need to do is just talk about it more – that’s the only way we are going to break down the barriers that keep us from being a great support system for one another.
3) Managing Stress, well
We think that we, adults, are chronically stressed, which is true to a large extent - but don't forget the children. The children of today are incredibly ‘busy’ and stresse, with school, after curricular activities etc. It’s again important to turn to breathing and meditation to help keep stress levels down. It is also important to be aware of how are are faring, how are are coping with life, our capacities and our limitations.
On this point, Dawn shared about the utter lack of awareness some patients exhibit. One of them came to her with clear physical symptoms of stress e.g. losing chunks of hair, and when asked if she felt the strain in any aspect of her life, she said flatly that she was “not stressed at all.”
Words: PAUSE Editors
Photos: Photo by Asdrubal luna