We as individuals are often encouraged to address mental health problems. However, it would help us if we knew what mental unhealthy- ness looked like to determine if we were mentally healthy accurately.
Keeping it Simple
In my research for this article, I found a new study published that provides a greater clarification of what constitutes a mental health problem. The new study published in the Journal of Mental Health was based on a review of over 100 publications that referred to “mental health” or “mental illness” and identified 34 different theoretical models to understand the nature of mental health challenges. The study points out that while understandings of mental health continue to evolve, it is imperative to include a variety of diverse perspectives to promote reasonable outcomes.
It can be overwhelming to understand all involved in such studies as a lay person. Furthermore, it is even harder to understand the outcomes and what they may mean to us. It is a minefield even for us professionals in the field.
The Results of the study by the Journal of Mental Health
The study ascertained no clear consensus on if mental health is considered a disease. Also, there was no precise data to determine if the participants thought about its cause or what constitutes a mental health problem.
Maybe people don’t think along those lines. Maybe folk subliminally understand mental health through their own traditional, family, religious belief, or memes and urban legends.
Researchers found that most people understood mental health more by how it manifested in a person in life rather than by relating to both biology and medicine.
Researchers realised they needed to learn from the people experiencing mental health issues. They needed to implement discussions that included perspectives from individuals with the lived experience of mental health challenges.
We All See Through Different Eyes
Many cultural and social factors define mental health. In his work, Dr. Lagoy highlights, that having a more diverse outlook and listening to other points of view can only make one more understanding and better at treating mental health problems. Furthermore, Dr. Lagoy explains, “What constitutes a mental health problem can be extremely subjective depending on the time and society in which one lives.”
In other words, what may be a mental health issue to you, may not be the way I see it and vice versa. Further, what was seen as a mental health problem 20 years ago, might be diagnosed differently today. Finally, in different Eastern cultures, different behaviours are expectations from that in the West. Therefore culture needs to be considered when diagnosing. So, for example, you may think your cousin is just plain nuts, whereas he and his family may say that his behaviour is acceptable and expected.
As an example, he notes that in the middle ages, it was revered because people thought they had a connection with the divine. I am certainly not saying that all religious/spiritual experiences result from mental health issues. I have had a few such experiences and consider myself relatively sane! Years ago, I worked in a mental hospital as a chaplain, and most of the patients had some religious experience that convinced them of divine reality. Some were extreme indeed, like one guy believed he was God, another an angel – you get my drift!
So, what this study finally showed is that determining our mental health can be problematic because it is so subjective. However, if medical and psychiatry personnel took time to listen to people’s stories, it would help them diagnose a mental illness and how to treat it – this is where psychiatry and medicine should meet together.
While understanding mental health change, Dr. Lagoy highlights, “The study touches upon how we need to be more open and diversify the different approaches of classifying mental health and rely more on nonmedical personnel for their unique point of view.”.
Hooray for this, I say!! Dr. Lagoy recommends that a list of known symptoms cannot always help the professional diagnose the person accurately. But instead, one must listen to lived experiences to understand the subjective experiences of mental health. I have a Master of Arts in Counselling, and it amazed me what I was taught relied heavily upon research done over 100 years ago. Learning from past wisdom is good; however, many changes have occurred. Culture has changed, people have changed, our cultural expectations have changed, and understanding of mental health needs to change.
Back to the Start
From the Journal of Mental Health research, we understand how to know if you have mental health problems is that you can’t accurately diagnose yourself by a tick box list.
Your mental unhealthiness can’t be understood by a set of symptoms that you may find on the internet.
Our mental health needs and manifestations are specific and different from others.
Therefore, a diagnosis needs to be made after trained medical professionals have heard your story. Determining what mental unhealthy- ness looked like with you, the research shows the importance of psychological and medical understanding of what you are going through and your point of view. However, you can take responsibility for your health and determine if something is not quite right with you, and that’s where you need to seek some professional help.
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