Not Everyone Suffers From Mental Illness, But Everyone Has Mental Health #GetLoud

Extremely common and damaging misconceptions: I have good mental health. After all, I don’t have a mental illness. People with mental illness and myself are fundamentally different. I don’t need to go out of my way to be kinder to myself or practice meditation or whatever. I don’t have a mental illness, so why should I make the effort to look into all this mental health, self-care, and self-love bullsh- I’ve been there. All of the above, baby. That was me very recently, back in 2016. So if you know that you think these things, accept it, and don’t self-berate. Again, these are common misconceptions! This week (May 7-13th) is the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)’s 67th Mental Health Week. In the past, their goal during these weeks was to combat stigma against mental illness and those struggling with mental illness. However, given the growing movement to #EndStigma, the CMHA has shifted gears! They are focusing on defining mental health, which goes far, far deeper than the absence of mental illness. Their campaign this year is #GetLoud about what mental health really is. So I’ll get loud here on my blog about what mental health is, and what it means to myself. This may or may not occur over a series of posts, so keep on the lookout! For those who don’t yet know of me, I am Nicole Kim, a mental wellness blogger, sufferer of depression and social anxiety disorder, fifth-year Health Sciences student, daughter, older sister, Korean-Canadian, stationery lover, dog & cat owner, writer, musician, gamer, and highly imperfect female. Photo by Matteo Catanese Everyone has mental health. Mental health is not the absence of mental illness. ”Mental illness” vs. “Mental health” Let’s get clear on this. As the CMHA writes (2018), 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental health issue every year. However, every single one of us (5 in 5) have mental health. A person can have a mental illness and have excellent mental health. Conversely, someone without a mental illness can have poor mental health. According to Mayo Clinic (2018), mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions – disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behaviour. All mental illnesses are diagnosed by psychologists or psychiatrists (two of the many types of mental health professionals) based on a set of criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). The CMHA (2018) defines mental health as a state of being, including aspects such as your self-esteem, distress, and stress levels. It also encompasses how you feel about yourself, others, and the world. Thus, one individual may have good mental health on some days, and worse mental health on others. This person may or may not have a mental illness. Everyone has mental health. The idea that those without mental illness do not need to work on their mental health is misguided and false. Poor mental health/good mental health and mental illness/no mental illness…any combination of these can exist at one time. If you are confused, that’s okay! To illustrate this, I will use some personal examples. There are many spheres of influence for one person, but I will break it down to three: what people saw outwardly (those who did not know me especially), what was happening that they likely did not know about, and how I felt inwardly/thought about myself (whether or not these thoughts were true). You’ll very quickly see that what you initially see does not paint a clear picture of what is going on both outside and inside of the individual (in this case, myself). BIG note that this is not how good/poor mental health looks like for everyone, nor does any mental illness look the same from person to person. Good mental health + no mental illness (summer of 2015) Outwardly, you would see: A university student taking a huge break for themselves during the summer (no summer courses, no job, spending a lot of time playing online games and doing hobby-related activities) What is also happening: I am building relationships that are important to me I am having fun and not taking myself too seriously each day I am investing a lot of time into my hobbies and enjoying myself I am going to Korea to visit my relatives for the first time in 13 years I am working out regularly purely to stay physically healthy I am taking a break – a much-needed break after the stressors of first year Inwardly, I feel: Fulfilled and content with where my life is at That I could handle a couple of blips in the road because I am confident in my ability to get back up (and I sure did) Supported by my friends and family Excited about seeing my relatives and exploring my home country Excitement about getting closer to a guy friend that I had a huge crush on Poor mental health + no mental illness (much of 2nd year) Outwardly, you would see: I am holding a perfect 4.0 GPA I am a very hard worker and a great asset to group projects In between work I am very involved in my extracurriculars I have a boyfriend, and it looks like it’s going well I have few friends, but it’s clear that I am very close with these few What is also happening: I am working/doing extracurriculars nonstop. I have virtually no breaks in my 8AM-midnight schedule except for meals Just kidding, I am usually doing work while eating my meals I self-berate and ruminate every time I make a mistake I have no tolerance for personal imperfections and am also a bit of a doormat for others I’m finding it difficult to trust people, and am afraid of revealing any imperfections, academic or otherwise Inwardly, I feel: Massive self-imposed pressure to “stay competitive” with my peers That I am inferior to many of my peers in terms of professional experience, technical knowledge, and presentation skills Cycles between frustration and contentment with my relationship … Continue reading Not Everyone Suffers From Mental Illness, But Everyone Has Mental Health #GetLoud