Mental Health: A Conversation – What is it? #1

MHACMental Health: A Conversation is a new blog series that aims at educating people and encouraging them to open up about mental health. It is a battle held against stigma

Each post will be compounded of 1 key question regarding mental health, 1 organization, 1 book and 1 extra piece (story, art, poem, article, song…). At the end of the posts, you will find varied additional resources to help you understand more about it and handle it.

Feel free to suggest other resources to be added to the future posts, whether it be songs, books, movies, documentaries or people whose stories inspire you. I also invite you to share your own experiences and stories as regards to mental health, or rant in the comments if you feel the need. If you have specific topics about it that you want to be tackled in this series, please let me know.

This must be a two-way conversation so join the conversation! 


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WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?

For over centuries, mental health and mental illness have tended to be withheld in societal discussions, such response resulting from a certain shame surrounding the topic. Today, the issue has risen in the debates, the key point being that mental health is something that need to be talked about. The World Health Organization published an in-depth report on suicide in 2014 (this very interesting report can be fully read here). From listing the factors of the epidemic to preventing and raising awareness, the WHO emphasizes that ‘over 800 000 people die due to suicide every year and it is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds. There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.’ Nonetheless, ‘suicides are preventable’ and treatments are today available for a wide range of mental health problems. Local and national prevention are key-elements to provide support and care to vulnerable beings and their families, and also to fight the stigma surrounding mental health.

Furthermore, mental health is defined as the emotional, psychological and social well-being of oneself. This well-being affects thoughts, feelings and behavior and remains important at every stage of life from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. Such wellness is maintained by several factors, among which are positive thinking, human connection, physical activity and sleep. Mental health thus enables people to realize their full potential, to work productively and to learn how to cope with emotional issues such as stress.

In order to avoid mental health problems or at least prevent and treat them, a conversation is needed, whether it be in the media or in school, as we will focus on in a future post of this series. Fighting the stigma is essential and learning actual facts is subsequently very profitable. Mental health disorder’s misconceptions are numerous, so here are five of them, from the most frequent to the most rare, as defined by the Encyclopedia Of Psychology adapted by the American Psychology Association (apa.org):

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Depression is more than just sadness. People with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression is the most common mental disorder. Fortunately, depression is treatable. A combination of therapy and antidepressant medication can help ensure recovery.

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.
People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.

ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral condition that makes focusing on everyday requests and routines challenging.
People with ADHD typically have trouble getting organized, staying focused, making realistic plans and thinking before acting. They may be fidgety, noisy and unable to adapt to changing situations.

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified. Individuals with bipolar disorder can quickly swing from extremes of happiness, energy and clarity to sadness, fatigue and confusion. These shifts can be so devastating that individuals may choose suicide.
All people with bipolar disorder have manic episodes — abnormally elevated or irritable moods that last at least a week and impair functioning. But not all become depressed. 

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness characterized by incoherent or illogical thoughts, bizarre behavior and speech, and delusions or hallucinations, such as hearing voices. Schizophrenia typically begins in early adulthood.

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TWLOHA-logo

TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS is a non-profit organization founded in 2006 by Jamie Tworkowski. In hope of helping a friend, Renée Yohe, and telling her story of struggles with addiction, depression and self-injury, he wrote it down. Then, he decided to sell t-shirts in order to help cover the cost of the treatment center of Renée. Ever since, Tworkowski’s action has emerged into an organization that provides help from informing to inspiring. Through speaking events, awareness campaigns and fundraising, TWLOHA encourages people to open up and start a conversation.

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IF YOU FEEL TOO MUCH is a New York Times best-seller by Jamie Tworkowski, founder of TWLOHA, published in 2015. It is a collection of Tworkowski’s writing on the TWLOHA blog. The author shares personal stories and intimate self-reflections. He emphasizes the importance of community and conversations by reminding the reader that life is a journey to be lived with hope and that living ‘in your head is lonely and is dangerous’. In this myriad of thoughts collected, Jamie Tworkowski sends a message of hope and love to life.

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+ To end this post on an inspiring note, here is a beautifully made animation video of Tom Waits reciting Charles Bukowski’s ‘The Laughing Heart’ poem (to read in full here)

[…]
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light
but it beats the darkness.
[…]
you can’t beat death,
but you can beat death in life
[…]

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Additional resources: 

  • The Mighty: a website to share your own stories about mental health.
  • 16personalities.com: a free online test to ‘get a concrete, accurate description of who you are and why you do things the way you do’.
  • TWOLHA blog: to read the stories of people battling mental health problems and even share yours.
  • Happify: a free iOS app to create new positive habits.
  • 7Cups: a website to vent anonymously (or not) and help people by talking.

#2: How Should Mental Health Be Tackled At School?

#3: Mental Health on Television

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8 thoughts on “Mental Health: A Conversation – What is it? #1

      1. It’s completely my pleasure…
        Was or I should say is going through some problem which is not good for emotional hygiene…
        The moment I read this.. I actually started relating with it.. It would certainly help… I presume..
        Thank you:)

  1. I´m came here via the lovely Lisa from Fromdreamtoplan and I´m so glad I did. Mental health is such an important conversation, with all the stigma surrounding it and the rising rates of depression and anxiety. Very happy to see you spreading awareness and focusing on a holistic approach rather than simply defining mental health as ´the absence of disease´.

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