We Need Preventative Mental Health Interventions
We need to start teaching mental health skills and resilience early
Jun 8, 2021Updated 5 days ago
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Mental health does not discriminate. Depression strikes the rich as it does the poor. Anxiety doesn’t care what kind of car you drive or what kind of house you own. Schizophrenia doesn’t care about your favorite TV show. There is nothing unique about you or me that confers us with protection. But we still think that it can’t happen to us.
These beliefs lead to decades of stigma surrounding mental health and its treatment.
We spent years ridiculing struggling celebrities in the spotlight.
It leads us to believe our mental health was something to hide.
Underneath these pernicious beliefs lies a value judgment. That people facing mental health challenges are somehow less worthy. Here, you might disagree. You would argue that this is not the case at all. While it’s not explicit, this belief shapes many aspects of our life and our world. Teachers and professors are often dismissive of students’ mental health concerns. In many places, psychotherapists aren’t covered by health insurance. Representations of mental health in the media are inaccurate and sometimes downright harmful.
That mental health is a sign of weakness. Here, you might disagree. You would argue that this is not the case at all. While it’s not explicit, this belief shapes many aspects of our life and our world. Teachers and professors are often dismissive of students’ mental health concerns. In many places, psychotherapists aren’t covered by health insurance. Representations of mental health in the media are inaccurate and sometimes downright harmful.
We aren’t taught the proper skills for coping and resilience early in life. Did you learn about anxiety and depression early in life? Do you know what obsessive-compulsive disorder is? Or better yet an intrusive thought? This negligence is responsible for the high youth mental health burden. The skills and habits we end up using often don't help.
Most people don't know that 94% of us experience intrusive thoughts and unwanted impulses. How can we deal with them if we can't recognize they're normal?
Telling someone not to worry or to smile doesn't make intrusive thoughts or negative feelings go away.
There's an emphasis on mindfulness and meditation. But there are so many other skills and tools that could benefit students. In fact, many people who pursue mindfulness and meditation experience side effects. Students and young people need to know about all the options available to them.
Overthinking and ruminating on trying to stop intrusive thoughts or anxiety makes the feeling worse. Therapists would advocate a different approach. Practicing how to be aware of your thoughts without drawing your attention to them. Developing a practice where you can distract yourself if you are unable to let the thought pass.
Schools and universities don't design curriculums with mental health in mind. An overwhelming number of students are stressed out by their courses and deadlines. The high youth mental health burden is proof alone that there's something wrong. Tight deadlines, unapologetic grading curves and back-to-back-to-back exams don't help.
There's always a large waiting list for accessing counselling services.
There's little understanding or sympathy about the systematic issues that pile up for students. Without access to these resources, without learning the proper skills and without sympathy the mental health problems are amplified.
Societal norms don't value mental health.
The workplace culture is toxic. In the current economy, we are told that we need to hustle.
The business culture prioritizes money over mental health. Some people even advocate getting into business during a pandemic. If we replace our sleep with coffee and Ritalin, we too can succeed. We tie our value and self-worth to how hard we work and how much we earn
Workplaces are obsessed with connectivity. With emails, with Slack with constant communication. This of course leads to a charge towards productivity. Employees armed with emails, Slacks and Zoom meetings work diligently at home, ignoring the pandemic around them. We are fixed to our screens and our phones, anticipating a work email at night. France literally passed a law freeing employees from out-of-hours emails.
Our only tangible value becomes our work and productivity. This toxic work culture values us for our work. We can sometimes get ahead by working long nights and sacrificing our sleep and health. We are encouraged to always be on and hustle for the next paycheck and the next income stream.
We have a toxic obsession with productivity. A ridiculous productivity hack emerges from the bowels of Silicon Valley at least once per year. These are based off of pseudoscience and the need to get a 5% edge in productivity.
A fundamental misunderstanding in neuroscience, coupled with the urge for more productivity created the dopamine fast. No, it doesn't work.
We hack our health so that we can be smarter and more productive. This includes everything from downing unregulated supplements and unproven brain-boosting drugs, to injecting yourself with gene-editing technology.
In workplaces, our rights are eroded for productivity. Amazon workers had to urinate in bottles and defecate in bags just to meet their quotas. All of this is done in lieu of just giving people a healthy break.
People who struggle with mental health aren't depicted well or are ridiculed in our media.
There are few good depictions of mental health in television and movies. Crime shows and detective films tend to have schizophrenic killers. Other shows discuss and portray obsessive-compulsive disorder as cute and quirky. Rarely do we get protagonists that struggle with their mental health in a real way.
The media and many fans ridiculed Brittney Spears after she had a mental breakdown. You might think we are past the time where we make fun of people for their mental health. Yet when basketball players like Kevin Love or Demar DeRozan open up about depression, a subset of fans is still in disbelief. After all, how can the rich and famous have problems?
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