May is Mental Health Month. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 1 in 5 adults in America experiences mental illness each year. Further, a recent Harris Poll showed 90 percent of Americans now value mental and physical health equally. As awareness increases and stigma decreases, in the pursuit of mental wellness we should ask ourselves: how can we get better at getting better?
When wrestling with issues from addiction to depression to PTSD and beyond, people tend to think behavioral health care is purely prescriptive: medication, talk therapy and so on. However, staying proactive throughout the entire process is the key to experiencing real progress and healing. Here are five practical ways to maximize your mental health treatment.
Be First – While it’s noble to put others before ourselves, mental healthcare is about prioritizing YOU. After all, getting better ultimately benefits those you care about most. When you need it, don’t be shy about asking for help. Act in your best interest—and make sure your behavioral health providers do as well.
Speak Up – Communication is essential when working through any mental health issue. Concerned about certain aspects of your therapy, the effects of a medication or understanding symptoms of a diagnosis? Talk directly to your provider who will listen and adjust your treatment plan as needed to best achieve your goals.
Want help but don’t feel much like talking? At Centerstone, for example, we offer art and play therapy (it’s not just for kids!) plus highly effective treatments that don’t involve talk therapy, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for trauma. You have lots of options – explore them.
Write It Down – Taking notes works well at school and the office, and so does journaling along your road to optimum mental health. Write out any questions you have for the therapist ahead of your first appointment and between sessions; jot down comments that resonate with you in treatment. Re-read this knowledge you’re compiling daily, and let it fuel your forward momentum. Also be open to homework that puts what you’re learning into practice.
Embrace Whole-Person Health – Mental health is more than taking care of yourself “from the neck up.” The connections between physical and mental health are well-documented and undeniable. It’s remarkable how treating your body right—exercising regularly, eating healthier, sleeping enough—contributes to a well-toned mind.
Be Patient – Remember, huge changes rarely happen overnight. Just as physical therapy demands repetition and time to arrive at healing and strength, so does behavioral therapy. Set realistic, attainable goals. Celebrate baby steps toward success, even when you might prefer leaps and bounds. That outlook makes it easier to complete what you’ve admirably started.
Mental health treatment works better when you take an active, informed role in the process. Be your own advocate, ask questions and dive into your chosen therapy. Be the best at getting better!