Why is good mental health important?

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Jennifer Smith NEW Jan. 2013

By Jennifer Smith

I have spent the past couple of weeks doing my yearly check-ups. I had blood work done, and a couple of regular tests that women my age do every year. Earlier this year, I had the lovely test done that involves beginning drinking a gallon of a “cleansing” tonic, and ending with a scope in places unmentionable. I am 51. It is what people my age do. These tests were indicators of health. Luckily I passed all the tests and there is one that I do not have to repeat until I am 61… Yeah!  It is good that we have access to these medical tests to tell us if we have a problem that needs to be treated.
This led me to think about what tests we have to indicate good mental and emotional health. It would be nice if there was one test out there that we can go and take yearly in order to show if we are mentally healthy. Unfortunately, psychology is not an exact science. Nevertheless, there are some indicators that may be worthy of one’s attention should they be present over an extended period of time. Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but for the purpose of this article, here are a few that I treat in my practice.
1. Chronic Anxiety: Chronic Anxiety is one of the top reasons that people enter therapy. We live in an anxious society and have a hard time finding peace. You may be chronically anxious if you create scenarios in your head about what catastrophic event “could” happen and then worry incessantly that they will. Worry is synonymous with anxiety. Anxiety can even make one sick with physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach problems, or can show up as OCD or hoarding.
2. Conflictual Relationships: Another sign of compromised mental health is constant difficulty relating to others, whether it be family, friends, co-workers, or the general public. I heard it once said that “hurt people… hurt people.” If you have unresolved issues with someone from your past, it could be that you are working out that pain on people in your present in damaging ways. Learning healthy ways of relating can improve sound mental health.
3. Being Disconnected: Being “disconnected” can come in many forms. It can start with a lack of self-awareness, which disconnects one from self, and ends with many many dysfunctional behaviors such as alcoholism, affairs or various forms of abuse. Being honest with self is the first step in getting reconnected about oneʼs behavior.
I once heard it said that “crazy” is the act of doing “crazy” things and thinking they are normal. Not being “crazy” is doing “crazy” things and realizing they are “crazy.” None of us are perfect, and we all have “issues” that need some positive attention. The question becomes whether or not we choose to admit when we need a mental health check-up. Is it time for yours?

Rev. Jennifer P. Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Madison (jenniferpsmithlmft.co) and in Athens (ca4wellbeing.com). She can be reached for an appointment at (757)508-0092 and takes most major insurance.

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