Well for starters we all have mental health.
Some people however, are going through a period of mental ill health.
& according to research most people will experience a period of mental ill health during their lifetime.
(Sorry this really does mean if you've been mentally healthy until now tomorrow may not be quite so great...)
Anyway after that slightly awkward introduction...
We all know that we should eat healthily, exercise regularly and get a good nights sleep to maintain a good level of physical health (and if you've been reading my blogs for a while that this too helps your mental health).
We know this because we have it drummed into us from a very early age.
In primary schools they even have 'healthy eating' as part of the curriculum.
Our fabulous NHS got in on the action & created a massive media campaign to get people off their bums and eating less junk (the yellow 'change4life' adverts, leaflets, social media posts...).
But here's the thing that I find super confusing.
Our brains are responsible for controlling our bodies (plus a whole host of other things).
We get taught how to look after our bodies.
But, we don't get taught how to look after our brains...
You have to agree - its a little nuts?
I mean, if your brain goes haywire then it's pretty much game over.
Well, unless you get help and manage to put yourself back together.
Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely to happen because there is a serious shortage of guys & gals available to help you.
On the NHS you're lucky to access 6 weeks of group CBT in under 3 months.
& trust me - this isn't going to do diddly squat for your mental health.
CBT was designed to be 1-2-1 with a minimum of 8 weeks (although if you're doing it properly you really do need 12 weeks).
There is research showing group CBT can be effective - but as a therapist myself I just can't see it. There's no way you can build up the deep level of trust needed between you and the person who is struggling if there's other people in the room.
I mean - would you want to bare all about how you were thinking about sticking your head in the cooker & leaving the gas on whilst sat next to someone who has OCD?
& don't get me started on people who have different mental health issues being treated at the same time...
Anyway - apologies I seem to have gone slightly off topic...
But in a nutshell.
Mental health education is important so you can identify, understand and manage your mental health the same way you do for your physical health.
If you have a serious pain in your chest you are more than likely to head over to the GP (or the ER...)
If however, your brain is being a little overprotective and you find yourself avoiding situations you find scary (even when they're not) chances are you won't realise you may be developing an anxiety disorder.
Now, mental health education is also important because it enables you to recognise when someone else might be struggling.
This is super powerful.
Mainly because we are always the last to know when our brains have gone haywire (I firmly believe it's part of the protection mechanism).
So, you being able to recognise when someone else is behaving differently absolutely can be the difference between them needing a slight course correction rather than an intensive intervention (whether pharmacological or therapeutic).
Now, importantly education and awareness are 100% different.
Awareness is simply knowing that something exists.
Education is both knowing something exits and understanding how the 'something' works.
For example (me 10 years ago); I know I have a car and that it gets me from A to B but I absolutely know nothing about how it works (& thankfully have in-laws who come to my rescue quite frequently).
I have embarked on a little bit of education so that I can do minor things (& not need my in-laws quite so much).
Even this small amount of understanding has made me more confident behind the wheel.
If the oil light comes on - I know to head straight to a garage, I know which oil I need, how to check the amount I need (because I also know if you overfill it you have to pay the AA quite a lot of money to come and empty it out again - if you're lucky enough to not blow your engine up... yeah I made that mistake before - hence the mini education).
Now, if we were to take this scenario & pull it back to mental health it might go something like this:
Awareness: I know I have depression because the GP told me. If I struggle I go to the GP and (s)he gives me pills/has me on a waiting list for therapy.
Education: I know I have depression because the GP told me, I've been prescribed medication/therapy, but I also know when I withdraw from my friends & family, feel really tired, loose my motivation to eat, become really irritable... my depression is getting worse & I can counteract the effects by; going for a walk, using essential oils, watching a funny film, making time to see my family, eating healthily...
You see - when we have been educated on a subject we really do have the opportunity to truly make our own free will choices about what we want to do with our own life.
We also have the ability to educate someone else to have the exact same control and freedom over their own life
Education far surpasses awareness every day.
It also reduces the fear and stigma attached to mental health illnesses because we are usually afraid of the unknown.
The 'what if's' are much more frightening than having a clear plan of action.
So, next time you're looking for a little bit of workplace training make sure you weed out those who 'teach' from those who 'educate' & I promise it will save you an awful lot of money in the long run!
Have a fabulous rest of your day & catch you soon - Katie.
p.s. if you're looking to up-skill your workforce with regards to stress and mental health management then click the button below to get in touch because we are all about the education!
Please note, this post first appeared on Katie's LinkedIn profile.
Katie Woodland - A developmental, and holistic psychologist who specialises in educating and empowering individuals, business leaders & school teachers to remove mental health as a barrier to success.
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