Model for change in mental illness: Change the individual’s environment before trying to change the individual

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When it comes to treating mental illness, the first thought is to focus on what the individual is doing right or wrong that lead to this low point in their life. People ask questions like what’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with their body? What chemical imbalances exist within them to make them feel like this? The individual translates these questions to what is wrong with me? What did I do wrong? Why am I the problem? Why me? The individual can fall victim to the blame game, as they are made to feel that they are the problem. They feel it’s them that needs to be fixed and it’s them that needs to change in order to get better. It can leave the individual in a vulnerable position, as if they don’t succeed in making progression with their mental state, they can feel like a failure, worthless and hopeless. This contributes to a further blow in self-esteem and self-confidence.

Anti-depressant medication eg. SSRIs work by re-uptaking serotonin/increasing serotonin receptors so that the individual will get more of this feel good chemical. The problem is, low serotonin is not always going to be the root cause of an individual’s depression. As pictured above, the latest emerging research challenges the common model that mental illness’ like depression are simply down to ‘imbalanced chemicals’ in the brain. Excessive levels of cortisol from chronic exposure to stress can be a cause. Low dopamine or nutrient deficiences can be a cause. Hormonal imbalances with oestrogen or thyroid dysfunction cause too cause this deteoriation in brain health. Treating any individuals that present with depression, without extensive investigations into the root cause of their illness, can lead to a prescription of non-specificity, masking the symptoms and not addressing the underlying problem. There are of corse genetic factors at play in some circumstances, but again, this shifts the blame right back to the individual and what’s wrong with their body.

Mental health conditions are not something that’s ‘in their head’. They can be accompanied by severely debilitating physical symptoms and can consume the susceptible individual that is suffering. I’ve said it before, but there needs to be a shift in how mental illness is treated & stigmatised, and we all have a responsibility to get this momentum going. Despite being able to talk online to anyone in the world at the touch of a button, we are all living a life of disconnection. We are social creatures by nature and we need real human connection. However, there should be an emphasis on the quality of this human connection and with whom you spend your time with. You could be the most positive person, doing all the right things, but if you’re constantly met with negative arseholes on a daily basis, receiving bad news and bad vibes, this negativity will build up and takes its toll on you.

We all have a mental health, so we need to look after it exactly the same as we would with our physical health. This requires regularly being pro-active by strengthening the mind through mindfulness, resilience, meditation, yoga, self-care, walking – whatever works for you. It requires us to put a stop to the expectations that if you’re not leading a stressful, busy lifestyle that you are not doing enough. It also requires every single one of us to show compassion, dignity and respect towards anyone with a mental illness. It requires us to look out for one another and to share our difficulties and fears, to normalise imperfection. There is strength in sharing your weaknesses and at the end of the day, we are all human. ‘When a flower doesn’t bloom, you change the environment in which it grows, not the flower’.

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