Melissa Powex • 16th January 2018
‘Mental health’ - A person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. (Oxford Dictionary)
‘Positivity’ - The practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude (Oxford Dictionary)
‘Reality’ = The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. (Oxford Dictionary)
Why am I writing about this?
Because it really actually frustrates me at work and in normal life that people think that ‘being positive’ is the way to avoid mental health problems. Let me tell you that this is not true.
Don’t get me wrong – positivity can be really helpful and is needed when things are going well for someone that struggles with a mental health difficulty. In the same way that you acknowledge a child who has done something well or managed something new – you would praise, give positives, encourage the positive behaviour. Sometimes when someone who struggles with doing ‘normal things’ due to a mental health proglem, they should absolutely be given positives and praise and encouragement for their achievement and be invigorated to try it again – and again – and again, until they can do it as a norm.
Mental health however does not ‘go away’ because you try to be positive. Be realistic. If you are feeling crap – you cannot turn your crap feelings into ‘positivity’. Anyone who has lost someone – will understand that you can not switch this type of feeling off no matter how hard you want it to go away. This is the same for people who struggle with mental health difficulties.
I encourage you to think about mental health and ‘reality’ NOT ‘positivity’.
I tell parents all the time at work – If your child is struggling to get up to school or get out of bed because of their anxiety, depression, symptoms of psychosis….ignoring the symptoms and talking about all the ‘positive’ things you could achieve in a day WILL NOT BE HEARD.
Tips to help someone who struggles with mental health
Do not’s –
There are ALWAYS things that make things easier.
If someone is anxious about meeting a group of friends but is ok sitting just with you – you can readjust plans. You can think about how many people the person can manage. Is the problem the actual place the group is meeting – maybe a shopping centre isn’t a good idea, but a park is ok? Maybe – the difficulty is the person being worried about not knowing what to say – prepare some conversation topics.
If someone is depressed and feeling low – they don’t want to get out of bed – make a cup of tea (first point in any intervention in my opinion). Find out what the worst things are for that person at that time. Just because the last time you saw this person they may have felt low in mood about one thing (not completing their work target/exams), doesn’t mean it will always be the same thing. Always ASK what is happening in that moment. Again, there will always be a way to adjust the situation – maybe you can’t get out of the house, but getting up to make lunch together could be really productive and mood boosting.
Long and short of what I’m saying is ‘positivity’ is NOT what people need when they are struggling. It can make things worse. Finding yourself in the other persons’ reality just for a short period of time will feel wholly more meaningful and worthwhile.