What is Mental Health?
The concept of physical health is something most of us can easily grasp but mental health can seem a bit more elusive. What is it like to be mentally healthy? Does it mean we are happy all the time, free from stress, and super-intelligent? When we have mental health does it mean we become like a Buddha or like Spock from Star Trek?
Mental health should be seen as more of a spectrum rather than an actual state – just like physical health. We are all going to be somewhere on this spectrum. Mental health also refers to a number of different attributes including:
• Psychological well-being
• The ability to regulate emotions
• Mental resilience – the ability to deal with problems
• The mental fortitude to reach goals
• Social skills – the ability to develop and maintain close relationships with other humans
Those of us who do not have a decent level of mental health are going to find life to be a bit of a struggle. We may be able to hide this inner-turmoil from the rest of the world but it is not possible to really enjoy life due to our poor inner-state. Our poor mental health can be due to psychiatric diagnosis such as:
• Bipolar disorder
• Borderline personality disorder
• Chronic anxiety
• Obsessive compulsive disorder
• Seasonal adjustment disorder
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Addiction disorders
Addiction and Mental Health
There is a very strong link between substance abuse and mental health. In a lot of cases, it will have been an undiagnosed problem such as anxiety disorder that drove us to abuse alcohol or drugs in the first place – this is referred to as self-medication. Even if we have relatively good mental health prior to the substance abuse, our inner-state will deteriorate as we continue with this behavior.
Intoxicants are toxic when it comes to mental health- these substances reduce awareness and diminish mental clarity. Those who turn to addiction are often trying to avoid their problems, and this is the complete opposite of what we need to do in order to enjoy mental health.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment – Rehab for Mental Health
All inpatient addiction treatment facilities can be thought of as mental health rehabs. The real aim of these programs is not just to get us to stop using alcohol or drugs, but to help us develop sufficient inner well-being so we no longer feel the need to turn to substance abuse.
In some cases, our mental health will be such an issue that we will require a specific type of program. The benefit of choosing this type of dual diagnosis rehab is it means we can have our addiction and other issue (e.g. depression or OCD) dealt with at the same time. This is important because unless the two problems are dealt with together, it can prevent you from making progress in recovery.
The goal of recovery is for you to improve your mental health over time. It is this that is going to lead you to happiness, and the peace of mind you deserve.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process