Mental health and mental wellbeing are not one and the same thing. One can we mentally well yet have a diagnosed mental health condition and one can we mentally unwell and not have a diagnosed mental health condition. It can be argued by many that the two terms are interchangable however I would counter that argument and here is why.
Wellbeing has been in many ways highjacked by consumerism, there is a scented candle for this and a crystal for that. People are encouraged to ‘get away’ to ‘find themselves’ which often is nothing more than a distraction from the habits that they return to when they ‘get back from getting away.’
Wellbeing should be considered an essential not a nice to have, good mental health is not merely the absence of disease and unwellness. Tt is a state of where anyone can realise their own abilities have good coping strategies to deal with normal stresses in life and can produce fruitful, meaningful contributions to all aspects of exsistance.
In essence this is – feel well, function effectively as an individual and function effectively within a community.
This is mental wellbeing.
Higher levels of mental wellbeing reduce the risk of mental health issues and disorders. It is a protective factor.
So it is not ok to not be ok.
It never was, it never will be so why are we normalising that it is?
Life itself is characterised by having times of suffering and strife as well as being able to flourish. There are always fluctuations across a life time. There needs to be more acceptance of this and a movement towards self-regulation and better coping.
We all need to take better self-responsibility and also accept that bad times happen, and we should not measure ourselves against those themselves but the quality of our toolkit to restore our sense of equilibrium plus functioning and then move forward back into flourishing.
Bad times happening do not mean we have a mental illness. It means we are experiencing life. We need to understand this and the power of the narrative and discourse we are allowing in the environment.
The prescence of what we may call negative emotions and thoughts can be a sign of good functioning as they may be giving clarity to important issues that are within our internal and/or external environment.
As a community we need to enable and empower all to be to adapt to life and to develop coping strategies that are more than thinking it normal to feel not ok.
We should be saying ‘if you are not OK have you got the tools to be able to be OK?’ that is the narrative we should be spreading. We need to get better at being more flexible in understanding what we need to do to produce good mental wellbeing. It is a sign of a good community if within it good mental wellbeing is promoted, and I do not mean trite, lip service promotion, I mean honest, trueful, accepting promotion.
The effects of the enviornment and its influence over all of us is huge. There are so many mechanisms that are hard wired into us as evolutionary survival that we need to understand and how interactions with the environment play into that. Often if we are within a hostile environment we are working predominantly with the most ancient part of our brain and our emotional centre with little intervention from the pre-frontal cortex, so there is no ‘grown up’ in the room. This can have huge impact on how well we feel and how in control of our lives we feel.
So we do not need fancy smellies or a holiday to have good mental wellbeing, we need to look around us and think how much of what I live within is good for me? How much is bad for me? How much is neutral? When we feel not ok we can not just think oh that is OK, becuase it is not. We need to think what do I need to do to get back in balance? And finally we need to break the cycle of being not OK in order to protect against mental illness and disorder, as we should not normalise that suffering from them needs to be part of the human experience!