Hey! How are you? Well, this is kind of awkward…l hope things have been good; long time no see. Life has been busy to say the least; completing a bachelors degree in the midst of a pandemic is a sure fire way to induce a week long depression…well, almost year long it seems like, huh? Throw a few panic attacks in there for fun. Once I complete these two college courses in the summer, I’ll begin preparing for the new journey that I will embark on in the coming months; graduate school. In the Fall of 2021, I will be a mental health counseling graduate student at Northwestern University…I know, I can’t believe it either. I won’t lie to you, I have been reading the congratulatory messages that people have been sending me on Facebook over and over again after I announced my decision, not to boost my ego, but as a mental pinching of my own skin…this is all still surreal to me; Northwestern has been a school I dreamed about attending ever since high school. Fourteen year old me is speechless, which was a rarity when I actually was that age. I hope to be able to document some of my graduate adventures, as well as some of the lessons that I will be taught. Of course, I will continue to write about current events and my two cents on them, as I enjoy doing the research for posts like those. I want to take my writing a bit more seriously, whether it be opinion editorial writing, features writing, interviews, or even more creative pursuits like short stories and poetry. The hiatus from my blog has made me realize a very simple fact about myself…I love writing. No matter how many people come across it, it’s something that I innately must do. When speaking becomes too onerous, writing words are there to soften the blow. Trying to piece together cohesive sentences off the top of your head can be monotonous. I feel this blog will be one of the only things to keep me sane during my time in graduate school; I hear these stories about the rigor of higher education and they terrify me. However, with the hooks and jabs I’ve dodged during Covid-19, I feel I can endure anything. Mentally, I am preparing myself, but it’s hard to do when you’re not sure what to expect. I know things that I was able to get away with in my undergraduate years won’t fly in graduate school; this is a whole different level. This is yet another part of my continuous self evolution, as 2020’s events have led me to want better for myself. At this time in my life, I am actually proud of myself…like honestly. I know what my dreams and aspirations are, and I am confident that I can reach them. I’m excited for the rest of the year, anxious, but excited. I am blessed to be able to move forward in the mental health field, as it is a passion of mine. I am only one person, but I am hopeful that I can help promote diversification within the profession, even if it is only amongst my fellow peers.
Today is not just some normal Thursday, today is much more important than you may think. Today is World Mental Health Day! As a mental health blogger, this is a very important day for me. I cannot stress enough how imperative it is for one to protect their mental health. Everyone goes through something, and no matter how small or severe, it is valid and deserves to be attended to and healed.
I can’t understand why people don’t make their mental health a priority. I mean, it’s your brain for God sakes…you know? The thing that helps you make daily decisions? The thing that is the reason why you decided to read this today? It is the control room for the body. It receives signals from sensory organs, and then sends that information to your muscles. The brain is probably the most important part of the body besides the heart; the two go hand in hand. The brain stores our memories; when we lost our first tooth, when we got our first kiss, when we got married, the brain holds all of that! Why do we just treat it in any old way?
As much as the brain is important, the brain is also quite complex. It actually is the most complex organ in a vertebrate’s body. Your brain consists of over 80 billion neurons. Neurons are specially designed to transfer information throughout the body. The brain has four lobes; the frontal lobe, the occipital lobe, the parietal lobe, and the temporal lobe. The frontal lobe is located in the…well, guess. This part of the brain is involved with voluntary movement, thinking, personality, emotion, memory, sustained attention, and intentionality. The occipital lobe is placed in the back of the brain. This controls your visual perception. The temporal lobe has an active role in hearing, language processing, and memory; it’s located at the bottom of the brain. Lastly, the parietal lobe is an important factor in registering spatial location, maintaining attention, and administering motor control. It may just all seem like a bunch of words, but your brain does all of that! That’s insane that the body is capable of doing so much.
Within those parts of the brain we have the parts that control our emotions like the limbic cortex, the hypothalamus, the amygdala, and so on and so forth. The limbic cortex impacts your mood, motivation, and judgement through two structures, the cingulate gyrus and the parahippocampal gyrus. While the limbic system is doing its thing, the hippocampus is making sure that you remember the things that you are supposed to. The hippocampus helps retrieve certain memories. It also helps out with recognizing space in your environment. The hypothalamus controls emotional and sexual responses, while the cute little amygdala helps coordinate responses that are in your environment, more importantly the ones that elicit an emotional response. Fear and anger are also ruled a lot by the amygdala. That’s quite a bit right? So what happens when these functions don’t function the way that they are supposed to? What causes it?
Having a mental illness may feel as if you are not in control of your own body. You may experience a certain emotion more than average, or maybe they experience an emotion on a lesser basis than average…some might not experience emotions at all. Professionals have been saying that chemical imbalances in the brain are the main culprit of mental illness since the late 1950s. What causes these imbalances?
Heredity and other biological factors:
Sometimes it’s all in your genes. If a loved one has a mental illness, there’s a chance that it may run in the family. However, it doesn’t always mean that you will inherit the condition. Sometimes due to injury the brain can change. Other times it’s due to prenatal damage, or just being born with abnormal functions in the brain.
Enduring a large amount of trauma can mentally affect someone for sure, especially when the trauma is endured at a young age. Our brains don’t finish developing until around the age of 25, so experiencing a certain act at an early age can damage the growth to crucial parts of the brain. Hell, experiencing trauma at any age can disrupt crucial parts of the brain. Some people over exert themselves to the brink of a breakdown. Sometimes the situations that we are in can cause us too much stress, which can create some psychological turmoil.
Certain types of drugs like psychoactive drugs can create manic episodes or psychosis and damage different parts of the brain. Narcotics such as cocaine and LSD can trigger paranoid behaviors.
Other factors may include poor diet, exposure to lead or other dangerous chemicals and etc.
How do people treat mental health? There isn’t just one way. One method may not work for everyone. I go to counseling with my therapist in a private and intimate setting; within the session, it’s just me and her. However, some people like to be around others in a group therapy session because they like to know that they aren’t alone. A support group is a great way to express your feelings and your grievances, It’s good to know that you aren’t the only person that is going through what you’re going through, and maybe you can get some extra help from someone who has been in your shoes before. I found a few support groups for different issues on PsychologyToday.com. You can also find therapists, psychiatrists, and treatment centers on there as well. I like the one on one setting personally because I feel like I’m not wasting time with the things I feel I need to get off my chest. Every session I talk about something different, but each session is working towards the end goal. I have done something called cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps treat the problem by boosting happiness through modifying dysfunctional moods, behaviors, and thoughts. That’s a form of psychotherapy. In some cases, medication can be administered. Remember! This does not cure the illness, but it can improve the person’s way of living. Case management can help the person seeking services find different resources that may be able to help the person live in a happier and healthier way. Many people like to turn down the holistic path. Meditation and deep breathing exercises can increase gray matter concentration, decrease stress hormones, and help combat depression…just to name a few benefits. If it is really serious, hospitalization may need to occur. It’s okay. Whatever needs to be done should have no shame behind it. This is your life, do what you need to do to stay healthy.
Some seem to think that people with mental illness are just these all ’round crazy individuals. People who experience mental health problems may fear that they will face rejection, bullying or discrimination. There are so many people who could be treated, but because of the stigma that is behind mental health, they are afraid of opening up about their situation. This can lead to the worsening of someone’s mental illness, greater destruction, and even death. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, around one million people commit suicide per year. In the States, one in five people go through mental illness. In 2017, 970 million people were reported to have a mental or substance disorder. Do you see how many people that is!? And that’s just estimated, there is probably way more. Anyone out there who is going through something mentally, trust me, it may feel like you are the only one trying to stay strong…but trust me, you aren’t. It’s a battle that a lot of people face.
Maybe you play into the stigma? Can you break it? Yes! There is hope. It never hurts to educate yourself on mental illness and mental health. Remember that the person is still a person, not their condition. Try not to be judgmental and attempt to come from an understanding place. And lastly, try to take action. If you know someone that may be going through some things, don’t be afraid to lend an ear. Sometimes that’s the best thing you can do. Support goes a really long way.
Even though World Mental Health Day is only one day, you can still promote better mental health everyday! Know your limits; take time to yourself if you need it. Don’t be afraid or ashamed when you need to ask for help. There are hotlines out there who are willing to listen to whatever you are going through. Here’s a link to a few good ones here:
Don’t listen to people who tell you that mental illness isn’t real. Don’t listen to people who tell you to just push it to the side and forget about it. Don’t listen to people who discourage you from trying to be the best version of yourself. Do what you need to do when it comes to your life. Everything will be just fine.
Santrock, John W. Child Development: Fourteenth Edition. 2013, June 18th. McGraw-Hill Education.