Mental health awareness is a cornerstone for removing the stigma around mental disorders and helping us all work through them better. I’m using a comprehensive A-Z approach to review some of the most common human issues as we embrace our struggles to approach our mental health with acceptance, education and positivity.
are intensive waves of fear that come out unexpectedly and can be both debilitating and immobilizing. You might feel your heart pounding, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and trembling in your body. They can appear differently in activity, intensity and duration - usually lasting 10 minutes or less. While some people will only ever experience one or two attacks, others can go on to develop a full-blown panic disorder, characterized by repeated attacks, major behavioral changes and persistent anxiety.
also known as postpartum depression is when new mothers experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness or emptiness, typically not many weeks after giving birth. While almost 80% of women get “baby blues” immediately after labour, symptoms usually only last 3-5 days and are less severe. It is a serious disorder triggered by hormonal changes and affects about 15% of mothers and can be treated with therapy, medication or other alternative methods. Postpartum psychosis is more rare, occurring in only 0.1% of births in which the woman experiences a break from reality, feeling delusional and irrational judgment.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
is developed after experiencing or seeing a traumatic event such as a war, natural disaster, car accident, unexpected death or sexual assault. During a traumatic situation the body’s “fight or flight” response is triggered causing the release of hormones which increase alertness, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. People with PTSD re-experience symptoms of the trauma such as flashbacks and nightmares and feel stressed and scared long after the event occurs. They may avoid situations that trigger memories of the trauma and they may be jittery and reactive.
cause abnormal thinking and perceptions where the affected person loses touch with reality. Psychosis is an umbrella term used to describe many types of mental health conditions and affect about 3.5% of the population at least once in their lifetime. It is a brain condition that can be made better or worse by environmental factors such as drug use and stress.
Schizophrenia is the most common psychotic disorder. The two main symptoms of psychosis are delusions and hallucinations.
is one of the most popular antidepressants used to treat depression, OCD and panic disorders. It works by blocking the absorption of serotonin in the brain which helps create a better and more stable mood and sits in the family of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). Prozac has also been shown to rearrange the nerve fibers in the hippocampus thus effectively rewiring the brain. It has been demonstrated to be effective for adults within one week of use though often results take 5-6 weeks or up to 12 weeks in some cases. A 2017 study found that 11% of people affected with depression were taking Prozac.
don’t be afraid to ask. Expressing concern to a friend or family member about his or her mental well-being can be intimidating. Some things you can say to communicate with empathy include
How are you feeling, really?
How can I support you?
What are your top three feelings today?
What have you done for you lately?
What thoughts have been circling your brain?
is a psychiatric center for individuals struggling with serious mental health issues and substance abuse. They involve intensive, supervised programs designed to provide the methods and tools to live a healthy life. Treatment may be either outpatient (visiting) or inpatient (residential) where the patient receives intensive treatment and structure in a nonhospital setting.
provide opportunities to take a break from the rest of your life to focus on your mental health and wellness. They come in multiple guises and can be useful when dealing with depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction or other mental health challenges. Retreats cut through the noise of daily life allowing complete focus on making positive changes through relaxation, revitalization and self-awareness. For the duration of a retreat you can dive into your healing without worrying about work or home life.
is a serious mental illness in which people interpret reality abnormally, resulting in hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking. In serious cases, people may hear voices or think that others are trying to hurt them. Symptoms usually begin between the ages of 16-30 and affects approximately 1% of the population worldwide, equally in both men and women. The cause is unknown though researchers believe it is a combination of genetics, brain chemistry and environmental factors.
results from an event, series of events or circumstances that is experienced as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening. Trauma can be acute, chronic or complex. Acute trauma stems from a single incident such as a natural disaster, crime, accident or abuse. Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged such as domestic violence or abuse. Complex trauma is when someone is exposed to varied and multiple traumatic events such as child abuse or military deployments.
There are many practical tools to help both prevent and overcome mental health challenges. By recognizing and owning our own feelings we can better cope with life. Take the time to identify what you are feeling; give yourself permission to feel and look for opportunities in adversity to remember the good things. Our overall mental health is supported when we connect with others, think positively, and are physically active. We also have greater wellbeing when we help others, sleep well and eat well. While we have many tools available at our own disposal, it’s important to get professional help if you need it.
yourself and others is cultivated through self-awareness and self-inquiry. When we understand ourselves, we have a greater capacity to empathize with others. Looking inwardly creates clarity about our own values, motivations, strengths and weaknesses. With a clear and open mind, we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and fully comprehend other people. Realizing why and how we affect others and how others affect us allows us to make better choices, communicate effectively, truly understand others and lead a better life.
are the things that are important to us. They motivate our behaviors and guide our decisions. By knowing our core values, we can set boundaries and learn to say no, helping us make decisions about what we will accept and not accept. We can understand our values by looking at what our priorities are and how our priorities are reflected in our actions. When we set healthy boundaries based on our values we can live truer to who we are. We allow experiences and people into our life in a way that keeps us healthy, happy and resilient.
Workplace Mental Health Programmes
provide a range of services and resources to employees for addressing personal problems and mental health concerns. They may be delivered in the office, offsite or virtually. These programmes can be tailored to individual needs and can help employees monitor and reduce their stress levels, support sleep and relaxation and promote emotional resilience. They might also include yoga, meditation and mindfulness sessions. These programmes can help overcome burnout and improve productivity and professional efficiency.
is a common pharmaceutical used to treat anxiety and panic disorders by enhancing the activity of the neurotransmitter known as GABA in the brain. It is a central nervous system depressant which slows brain activity and other functions in the body promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. It is highly effective in treating anxiety but also highly addictive. A study reported that nearly 13% of all US adults took Xanax or a similar class of drug in 2018 and misuse is on the rise as the opioid epidemic grows.
You’re going to be fine! Our mental health is an ongoing journey. It will go up and mit will go down. We can better recognize the difference between negative feelings and a disorder by educating ourselves on mental health and taking advantage of the resources available. With more science and intervention, we can feel accepted and supported during our darkest and most difficult days.
is when your brain switches to autopilot, a mild form of dissociation. It can be caused by sleep deprivation, information overload, stress, or trauma. In fact, it’s a normal part of brain functioning and can actually boost creativity and deep thinking. However, when you zone out as an escapist coping mechanism you might be preventing yourself to respond effectively in the long-term. A little daydreaming never hurt but ground yourself and come back by practicing active listening and self-care.
Well, well, well, there you have it! Or at least a lot of it! A full A-Z of Mental Health. Think of this as a crash course on mental health. Education is power!