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  • Gonzalo Laje

Nurturing Mental Health with Personalized Care


Mental health.  By definition, it’s the well-being of one’s mind.  But for me, the first things that come to mind when I think about the term ‘mental health’ are ‘mental health days’ sponsored by schools and businesses.  


When I worked in schools, I remember coming up with mental health positivity and self-care activities in neat 45-minute blocks for these ‘mental health days,’ without focusing on mental health the rest of the year.  And I think, for me, that covers why mental health is important - because it is not something that can be helped with half-hearted measures.


One important way, at least in my opinion, to consider mental health, is to look at it from a chronic need perspective.  Anxiety, for instance, is not a one-and-done mental illness that one can ‘solve’ with therapy and medication - it can be mitigated and handled, but it is a persistent issue.  When someone has poor eyesight, they need glasses.  That is a chronic, persistent issue.  However, from my experience, difficulties people have that are internal are often more easily overlooked and sometimes more stigmatized.


But to focus on my point, mental health is almost like a plant.  A bit of an odd metaphor, but please, follow along with me.  Each plant is different - even ones of the same genus and species. Offshoots all need different soil types, water content, and sunlight intensity.  Some are toxic to others, while some grow and grow, higher and higher, in competition, and others help each other through their own growth.  And yet, when we think about people, society has only a few ways of acceptable growth. Given this, we must ask, if the growth method remains fixed and the environment is not suited for them, how does the individual grow? Like plants, humans need their needs met in different ways, for optimal growth.


With continued external support like pharmacological insights, individual and group therapy, community resources, and public access areas, some growth is possible. But the needs remain deeper than that.  While literature might say a type of plant needs X amount of water every Y days, each individual plant needs something a bit different.  The plant might not even know what it needs!  This is true for people as well. 


When we replace the talk of plants with our loved ones, why wouldn’t we try anything and everything for them to grow up happy and healthy?  It’s not a joke to say that there is a mental health epidemic in our nation.  It’s been highlighted over the last few years, and if you have children, you can probably track it to when COVID-19’s lockdown started and ‘Zoom School’ started.  But it’s been going on for a lot longer.  It’s just that the majority of people with chronic mental health differences either work on them quietly, push them down and ignore them, or suffer loudly, to society’s scorn.  On Facebook, I regularly see posts on mental health. Some are helpful, sharing facts and tips. Others are, for lack of a better way of saying it, “fake news.” We’re flooded with information on social media, including information about mental health, and we often just don’t know what to believe.


So plants, Facebook, society, everything aside - what is the point of this blog post?  Like with most of the posts I write, it’s to show a bit about how my mind works - what the thoughts inside a 28-year-old ADHDer’s head look like.  My thoughts bounce around but always come back to how I interact with myself and the world around me.  I do like the plant metaphor, though.  The point of this article is to highlight that everyone has their own mental health needs, which are continuous, and changing, and personal, and which are vital to their happiness and existence.  It can be hard for people to find that happiness, though - especially today.  So give your loved ones the space and support to find what they need in a healthy way.  Get curious and help them notice their specific needs. Work together to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Talk to professionals you trust, rather than relying on social media. Listen to your loved one as you support their needs. Consult well-vetted sources for different approaches. Remember, just like with plants, if we are flexible and personalized in our approach, people are likely to grow and thrive.


If you are considering individual or group therapy for you or a loved one, please reach out to us at hello@wbma.cc or call us at 301-576-6044



 

Licensed Master Social Work


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