Seems like everywhere you turn these days there is information about new diets, exercise training programs, and various ways for us to live longer, better, and healthier. Ironically, what is rarely talked about are the ways in which we can safely and effectively enrich our mental health lives – even though we would all agree it’s important to develop good mental health.
The portrayal of “mental health” in the media…
When we do see “mental health” in the news, it’s usually for two main reasons — and neither actually helps us improve upon our mental health. The first means in which we learn about mental health is from all the commercials on television suggesting the many drugs we should take in order to feel better. Feeling down? Take a pill. Nervous? Take a pill. Got a child who occasionally gets out of his seat at school? Give him a pill. You get the picture….
The second way we come into information about mental health again is not from a healthy perspective, but instead as a cause for many of the problems in our country today. For example, when mass shootings occur almost always we turn our attention toward the mental health factors in trying to explain what just happened (interestingly, you never hear about the dangerous psychotropic drugs being used by the assailant, but we always hear about the disorder).
Physical health = good; Mental health = bad
As you can see mental health is rarely, if ever, discussed within the same context as appropriate physical health. What I mean is you won’t see mental health commercials on television in the same fashion as physical well-being ads, where people are seen jogging, eating better, and working out with weights. In the examples of physical health, we usually frame the message in positive (and often sexy) way. The same is not true with mental health, as mental health is almost always talked about in terms of problems — and never in a way that helps “normal” people simply improve the qualities of their mental health.
It’s unfortunate we don’t have a stronger message about how we can stay sharp mentally — where are the news stories and commercials talking about stress coping mechanisms, goal setting strategies for success, and psychosomatic means for moderating anxiety so that it does not become debilitating? And guess what – you don’t need dangerous drugs in order to learn these things! When you think of it, no pill out there is going to teach you how to cope with life more effectively, how to develop better communication strategies for dealing with others, or how to learn better manage your time so that you can lead a happier life. In these instances it is far more effective to learn life skills, which are not only more helpful but safer, too. It seems that if we were to address our mental health needs in the same ways in which we work to eat better or lose a few pounds, we might actually lead happier, healthier lives as a result.
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