If you ask someone "How are you today?" the common automatic response you get is, "I'm fine". More often than not its a polite response (to a polite question) but it's often not an accurate response!
Ok so most people don't want to tell the world and his wife everything about themselves and maybe not everyone really wants to know every detail about "how" you really are feeling. But if you are asking this of a friend or family member you probably wouldn't be too taken aback or surprised by them telling you something about their recent physical health, for instance "Oh I'm fine apart from a bit of a cold", or "I'm a bit tired". However, you are less likely to hear about other aspects of their wellbeing. They're less likely to admit that they are feeling lonely, lost, upset or worried or that they've been drinking more to help them sleep or avoiding situations because they experience anxiety or flashbacks.
But the question is "How are you?" ....you, how are YOU? Yes you IS your physical being, but you is also your psychological being, your social being AND your spiritual being. You is ALL of you. Each part; physical, psychological, social, spiritual - all AS important as each other - the combination is what makes you.
The unfortunate reality is that there has been a long held stigma surrounding mental health / mental ill-health and much as I like to think things are getting better I sometimes still wonder! One hopes that the public are gradually becoming more positively aware and considering the importance of looking after their mental health; I increasingly notice posts on social media about anxiety, depression, PTSD, suicide etc. I am grateful for those who share such posts and hope that at least one person sees it and begins to rethink their perception of mental health. But I fear the sad reality is that many still believe it somehow doesn't apply to them!
I've often joked with the young soldiers I've worked with over the years that "we're all mental mate" and gone on to encourage them, that they think nothing of focusing on being physically fit but that their mental fitness is equally important AND that means that in the same way we can all become physically unwell, so too we can all become mentally unwell. The reality is we are all vulnerable - it just makes us human. We need to look after ourselves, nurture ourselves and do things which maximise our health all round, that increase our robustness physically and mentally (and spiritually!). If we have a temperature we acknowledge it and do something about it. When we become mentally unwell instead of hiding the problems away, we need to acknowledge them and look after ourselves as well as we would if we were physically unwell.
We know that uncertainty and the unknown can scare us, unfortunately this leads people to be guarded or defensive - a natural primitive response to feeling threatened. Yet we need not "fear" mental health; as I said, it is after all part of us. So what we DO need is education and understanding. With lifestyles becoming increasingly stressful & pressured and with people becoming increasingly isolated, recognition of stress and effective coping skills could be taught much more in schools.
We need to be able to acknowledge that when things become tough and we find oursleves pulling on all the resources available to us in order to cope with the stressful things that life throws at us, that sometimes, despite our best efforts we can become overwhelmed and there is a negative impact on our day-to-day life.
If 1 in 4 people in their lifetime will experience psychological ill health then it could really be you, your dentist, your friend, your teacher, your child, your family member. Yep it really could be you.
So "yeh mate you ARE mental!... You are a mental, physical, social and spiritual being. About time you acknowledged it and started looking after your mental health!!! .......so get talking about the elephant in the room!
Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, Integrative Psychotherapist, Nurse Specialist (Mental Health), Mum, Youth Worker, Trainer.......