6 min read · Mar 29th · Increased use of psychiatric language means ordinary distress is being medicalised, while the seriously ill are not being heard, says psychologist Lucy Foulkes
Evidently, since my friend’s acute distress passed within a few weeks, he didn’t sit clearly in the territory of what we might call “mental illness”. But he certainly wasn’t mentally healthy for those weeks either. Instead, I realised, he sat somewhere in the vast grey plains between the two. Everything we might think of as a “symptom” of mental disorder – worry, low mood, binge eating, delusions – actually exists on a continuum throughout the population. For each symptom, we vary in terms of how often we experience it, how severe it is, how easily we can control it, and how much distress it causes. In the terrain of mental health, there is no objective border to cross that delineates the territory of disorder. On top of this, the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that appear temporarily as a natural response to hardship and stress – like when we’re heartbroken – exactly mimic those that, should they persist, are defining features of mental disorders. So blurry are these boundaries that some psychologists argue we shouldn’t use the terms “illness” or “disorder” at all, and should only view all of this as matters of degree.
The current conversation can be summed up as follows: you should notice, scrutinise and seek help for negative psychological experiences. Of course, for some people, this message will be essential. For those who are suicidal, it can be lifesaving. But the message misfires when it implies that all negative states are problems, health problems – and things that can and should be fixed. That’s not how life works.
Interpreting your low mood as a sign of depression, for example, can actually cause you to spiral into the very depression you’re worried about. We know this from research into mindfulness-based therapies for people with recurrent depression: learning to view low mood as “just” that, rather than as a start of a new depressive episode, can help reduce risk of relapse.
4 min read · Jun 17th · Plus some prompts to get you started.
Writing creatively offers a unique way to explore thoughts, feelings, ideas and beliefs. For instance, you could write a science fiction novel that represents your concerns about climate change or a children’s story that speaks to your beliefs about friendship. You could even write a poem from the perspective of an owl as a way to represent your insomnia.
Ernest Hemingway famously said that writers should “write hard and clear about what hurts”.
Each of these writing prompts will give you a chance to reflect on this past year, ask yourself important questions, and make creative choices. Spending just 15 minutes doing this may give you an opportunity to become more self-aware – which could lead to improvements in your mental health
2 min read · Aug 16th · Firms that confront mental health are poised to win the war for talent.
72% of U.S. employers say stigmas associated with mental health and addiction are keeping workers from seeking help, per The Hartford's study. The more we talk about it, the faster the stigma goes away, Swift says.
Without chance encounters at the water cooler, we can slip into the habit of only discussing work matters with colleagues.
Managers should regularly check in with workers and should themselves be responsible for fostering an environment in which workers feel comfortable discussing personal problems,