I have mental health, you have mental health, we are all somewhere on the spectrum of mental wellness.
Often when you speak about mental health, people’s minds immediately think you’re speaking about mental illness. However, mental health also includes mental wellness and there is a continuum, a sliding scale between illness and wellness and all of us fit somewhere on the scale.
Think about it like physical health
If this is a concept that might be difficult to grasp, simply think about it like physical health. It’s not binary, it’s not on or off. There is a spectrum of illness physically – your everyday cold doesn’t call for an ER visit, although you’re not well, but you’re still able to go to work and you’re able to cope with the stuffy nose yourself.
It’s the same with mental health. There may be some issues you face and you’re able to cope and deal with it yourself. Or it becomes more severe and you need to reach out to your support network or to consult a medical professional.
We’re all somewhere on the scale
Everyone is unique and the way you experience different levels of the scale may be different to the person next to you. These things are relative concepts, not absolutes.
This is just a general and basic tool for you to see where you think you may be now & where you’d like to be.
With high levels of energy, you’re motivated, committed, passionate. You may excel at work, with high performance. You’re cheerful, joyful and reaching your full potential.
Your moods are normal, your energy levels are moderate. You’re coping well with all the different commitments you may have. Stress levels are manageable & you have good sleeping & eating routines. You’re calm, positive and healthy with no risks to your mental health.
You may begin to notice you’re not your regular self. Perhaps you have increased fatigue, or angry outbursts. Perhaps you’re starting to avoid social activities, are more irritable or something just feels off. You’re still managing your commitments and may be able to bounce back to health by making a few changes to your lifestyle.
When you slide towards struggling, you often realise this. You are more anxious, often tired. Perhaps your sleeping routines are a mess, you eat too much or too little. Other areas of life, like work or social groups are starting to get impacted. When you are struggling, it is important to reach out to those around you and depend on your support network.
Often at this stage, people around you may begin to notice the physical signs of your mental struggles. This may become evident in your decreased social interactions, excessive sleep or lack of sleep, disregard for work or commitment, exhaustion, severe mood swings and sometimes even physical pain. It is very important that you are able to contact a medical health professional if you think that you or a friend may be in this position.
When trying to place yourself on the scale, understand that you may be between stages – it’s a sliding scale, after all. It’s also important that you don’t compare your “healthy” to someone else’s “healthy”. We all have different personalities – your social interactions may be less than someone else’s – that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re struggling and they’re thriving.
Take care of your mind like you do your body
Now that we understand that mental wellness is on a sliding scale, we should do what we can to improve our mental health if we are unsettled, struggling or in crisis. Each of these stages will require different levels of help, just like it would if it was a physical illness. If we are mentally healthy, then it’s important that we practice good habits to ensure that we don’t spiral down the scale.
What about me?
As I have looked at this sliding scale, I realise that I have experienced a whole range of these stages. I think back to high school, where I was really thriving – I had high energy levels, high performance, was passionate and committed.
Then I think about the lowest time of my depression. I was mentall ill, on the borderline of struggling and crisis. With the help of professional counselling, prescribed medication and the support of family, I was able to come out of crisis, while I was still struggling for weeks and months after this “low point.”
Since then, I have slowly made my way to being mentally healthy, the process happening so slowly, that I didn’t realise until I looked back on where I had been. Now, while I still consider myself to be healthy, I can sometimes have days where I slip back to struggling, but am able to bounce back to health the next day, much faster than the weeks it took before.
What about you?
Whichever stage you feel that you’re in, know that it’s okay to be where you are. There’s no right or wrong and we can all improve our mental health in some area. Wherever you are on the sliding scale, surround yourself with people that you love and trust, so that if and when you need to reach out, they will be your support network.
It’s also important to check on those that you love and care about, because although they may seem fine, you never know how they are feeling mentally. Check on your strong friend, your quiet friend, your successful friend, your happy friend, your creative friend, your brave friend. Check in on your friends.