Dentists recommend cleaning your teeth twice a year to avoid oral problems. Mechanics change your oil every 3-6 months to ensure your car runs efficiently. Barbers or hairdressers book clients every 4-8 weeks for haircuts. And most financial experts advise saving several months worth of cash in an emergency fund.
We're used to anticipating problems in most areas of life, but we sorely lag when it comes to our preventative mental health care. Instead of routinely check in on our well-being, we often overlook our feelings and symptoms until things become unbearable.
While treatment can help, early prevention and detection can make a tremendous difference in determining your success outcomes. Let's get into what you need to know.
What Is Preventative Mental Healthcare?
Preventative mental healthcare doesn't fit under a single definition. It's a broad term focusing on the sociopolitical and individualistic decisions we can undergo to improve our overall health.
In some cases, it's about making direct efforts to prevent mental health problems from emerging altogether. For example, we know that trauma represents a key risk factor in nearly every behavioral issue. While we cannot prevent trauma from happening, a systemic, preventative mental healthcare approach might focus on:
providing immediate psychotherapy.
routinely evaluating for medication needs.
teaching distress tolerance skills ( mindfulness, positive visualization, reaching out to positive support).
educating teachers, law enforcement, and other public-facing professionals about trauma and its subsequent impact.
Of course, mental illness is multi-faceted, and even the best preventative care cannot eliminate all problems. However, it may reduce the severity of symptoms, and it also decreases the societal stigma surrounding diagnoses and treatment.
How Can You Practice Preventative Mental Health Care on Your Own?
Regardless of your current emotional state, you can take essential steps to protect your well-being. Implementing these suggestions can help you feel more empowered in taking charge of your daily routine.
Practice Stress Management
Get in the habit of using healthy coping skills to combat stress. For example, instead of lashing out or overeating the next time you feel overwhelmed at work, consider taking a walk or breathing deeply for a few moments. The more you can practice these skills, the more second nature they will become.
Prioritize Your Physical Health
Eating a nourishing diet, staying physically active, and getting enough sleep are paramount for emotional stabilization. By taking care of your body, you also take care of your energy levels and moods. While you don't need to be "perfect" in this domain, aim to commit to making healthy habits each day.
Avoid or Limit Toxic Activities/Relationships
Even if you can't eliminate all unpleasant parts of your life, take inventory of what does and doesn't make you feel healthy. If you notice excess toxic energy in your life, try to set boundaries with yourself. Remember that you don't have to be friends with people who mistreat you! Subsequently, you don't need to stay in a job that makes you feel completely burnt out.
Meet with a Therapist
Therapy can help you even if you aren't struggling with a particular diagnosis or defined issue. It offers an excellent opportunity to process uncomfortable feelings and increase the insight you have about yourself. Many people have therapists at various points in their lives- the extra support can be invaluable for your well-being.
What if You're Already in a Crisis?
If you're worried about your safety- or the safety of someone else- it's essential to make a plan to reach out for immediate support. Crisis issues can quickly spiral, and you need to keep yourself protected if the situation worsens.
Keep in mind that it's normal to question if your situation truly warrants a crisis. Even if you're afraid of overreacting, it's better to err on the side of caution. Crises may escalate without much warning, and that's why it's so important to take action.
As a general rule of thumb, you can always call 911 or report to a local emergency room. However, if you're questioning suicide, but don't have an immediate plan or intent, consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They offer confidential support and can connect you with immediate resources.
If you're actively working with a mental health provider like a therapist or psychiatrist, contact them. You can review an appropriate safety plan, and they can further provide further assessment as needed.
Final Thoughts on Preventative Mental Healthcare
Prevention can be everything when it comes to treating your mental health. With this mindset, even when issues arise, having skills in place makes significantly coping easier. In addition, you will know exactly what you need to do if a crisis emerges.
At The Mental Health House, we are here for all your mental health needs. We understand the benefits of prevention, but we also know ongoing treatment is imperative. Contact us today to learn more.