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The past two years have been psychologically and emotionally demanding as we deal with the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With vaccinations being rolled out across the US, the impact of the pandemic on mental health appears to be levelling off. Nonetheless, a large proportion of the population still find themselves in a poor mental state as they deal with the worry and stress wrought by the pandemic. As more people begin to pay attention to their mental health, we should also address the common misconceptions surrounding the topic.

Poor Mental Health Does Not Equate to Mental Illness

Whenever we talk about mental health, people tend to equate it with mental illness. The two concepts are not interchangeable despite being related. Good mental health is not an on-off experience, and is not fixed throughout your life. Your mental health exists on a spectrum, and will move back and forth during your lifetime in response to different life circumstances and stressors. You may go through weeks or months feeling optimistic and strong, as if you could handle any challenge that is thrown your way. There will be other times where you do not feel as resilient or positive about certain areas of your life, and may have difficulties coping. This is to be expected as it is impossible to always be happy, especially when we are faced with unexpected and difficult life challenges. Persistent poor mental health, on the other hand, could have a significant negative impact on your relationships, experiences at work, sense of self-worth, and physical health. This could subsequently lead to the development of a mental illness. A person could thus experience poor mental health but not receive a diagnosis of a mental illness. Similarly, someone with a mental illness can go through periods of positive psychological, emotional and social well-being.

Feeling Poorly is Not Uncommon

Your social media feed is constantly full of picture-perfect images. Everyone except for you seems to have the perfect body, family, lifestyle, home, and travel adventures. Are you really just that unlucky? It is easy to believe that you are the only one struggling in an unglamorous life as most people tend to exclusively present a positive image on social media. The stigma against mental illness exacerbates this issue as people do not speak up about their mental state due to the fear of judgment, and the possible consequences it could have on one’s work and family. This amplifies feelings of isolation and can make you feel like you are the only one who feels this way.

It is not unusual to experience poor mental health every now and then. In celebrated tennis professional Naomi Osaka’s essay, It’s O.K. Not to Be O.K., Osaka wrote about how everyone faces their own issues that others do not know about. She emphasised the importance of taking a rest day or talking to someone to recuperate. In fact, having a mental health condition is not uncommon. 1 in 5 Americans develop a mental illness each year, and more than 50% of Americans would have been diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lives. Not everyone, however, will receive the help they need to manage their mental health condition.

What Works for Others May Not Work for You

There are many different types of treatments, such as specific prescription drugs or therapy, for each mental illness. Therapy, for example, can be given in the form of Cognitive-Behavioral therapy, Positive Psychotherapy, and Humanistic therapy. Of course, not every treatment option is suitable for treating all types of mental illness, and something that works for someone else may not work for you. Your unique circumstances determine what is effective for you and what is not.

Accessibility is one factor to consider when deciding on a treatment plan. You may live rather far away from the nearest mental health professional, and committing to in-person therapy or having to regularly pick up prescription drugs is simply not plausible. The good news is there are more mental healthcare services moving towards an online platform, and physical location is no longer an issue. Mental health professionals are able to diagnose and prescribe medication or provide therapy through online sessions. Ahead Reviews suggests that receiving web based mental healthcare is undoubtedly more convenient for those who do not have time or easy access to a mental health professional. If you, however, feel more comfortable consulting a mental health professional in person, accessing mental healthcare via online platforms may not be as effective for you. It is important to think about what kind of treatment plan is not only suitable, but sustainable for you.

Understanding and taking care of your mental well-being will help you think, feel, and act in more positive ways. If you recognise that you need help, there are increasing avenues for you to explore to receive the most suitable treatment.