Mental health, like physical health, is a key component of what makes us well.
We can think of mental health like we think of physical health. Physical health refers to our bodies, mental health refers to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
Mental health is often thought of as only being applicable to the one in five people who experience mental illness, but that’s not the case. In reality, five in five people have mental health.
We ALL have mental health.
Mental health services include appointments with Mount Allison counsellors, and access to other therapists and support staff. Counsellors are located at the Wellness Centre in the Wallace McCain Student Centre.
Resources to help guide and support you as you take care of your mental health as part of your daily routine.
Mount Allison provides training, outreach programs, and services to the entire University community.
Want to get involved? Visit student engagement and advocacy to find out more about student jobs and volunteering opportunities, as well as student clubs and societies around health and wellness.
About mental health
Mental health spectrum
Both our physical and mental health vary along a spectrum. We are just more used to talking about our physical health this way.
For example, with our physical health there are times when issues may be less critical, and you would treat any ailments yourself (e.g. if you had a headache). But there are also more dire times when you need to seek professional help (e.g. if you had a severe migraine for days on end).
Mental health spectrum
This is a state of optimal health. Everything is in optimal shape with your body, mind, behaviours, and attitudes.
This is when you may need a little extra self-care.
Physical health: Maybe you have a headache. Try drinking more water or getting a little extra sleep to take care of yourself.
Mental health: You might be feeling stressed and anxious about an exam you thought was later this week, but you realized it is tomorrow. Take a deep breath and create a to-do list.
This is when your problem or concern becomes more intense, long lasting, and is having a notable impact on your everyday life.
Physical health: Maybe you’ve broken your ankle playing basketball and can no longer walk. You need to see a professional or care provider.
Mental health: Maybe you’ve been feeling depressed and hopeless for the past few weeks and have stopped attending class and/or participating in extracurricular activities. This is when you should seek extra support from a professional or care provider.
This is when your health issue has escalated to a place of emergency where immediate care is needed.
Physical health: Maybe you’ve been hit by a car on your way home. You need to get to the hospital and get immediate care.
Mental health: Maybe you're having thoughts of suicide and or/self-harm. You need to see a professional or care provider immediately.
How to identify a concern
With or without a mental illness, it can be quite difficult to recognize when mental distress has become too severe for us to look after on our own.
Mental distress can be recognized as a serious concern whenever we or someone we know experiences negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that have become intense, long-lasting, and are beginning to have a big impact on our lives.
This framework is a helpful tool to use when we are trying to assess the severity of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours we might be experiencing:
Are they intense? — These aren’t mild, everyday fluctuations. They’re stronger and more persistent thoughts, feelings, and behaviours than the usual ups and downs of life.
Are they long-lasting? — They are having a consistent or lingering presence over weeks, months, or longer. Many professionals suggest that anything that has lasted two weeks or longer can be cause for concern.
Are they having a big impact? — They are beginning to have negative consequences in one’s life, possibly interfering with someone’s ability to function and/or meet their everyday goals.
When to seek help
This resource is powered by TeenMentalHealth.org. Check out their website for more information and resources.
Information adapted from: https://jack.org/Resources/Learn/When-should-I-get-help
Sometimes, it can be difficult to identify what you are struggling with. Speaking to a professional such as a doctor or counselor can help to identify if you are experiencing serious mental distress or mental illness. They can help support you and find you resources.
Questions to ask yourself
- Have I been feeling out of sorts emotionally for over two weeks, most of the time each day? Does it seem like I’m not getting better?
- Have I begun to let my schoolwork slip (missing classes, not doing my studying) because of how I have been feeling?
- Have my friends or family members been telling me that they are concerned about me?
- Have I cut down on my social life and my contacts with friends and family because of how I am feeling?
- Am I having problems with my emotions, behavior, or thinking that I have had help for in the past but that are now re-emerging?
- Have I been using alcohol or drugs more than others are using them or have I begun using alcohol or drugs to “help” me with how I am feeling or to take my mind off my problems?
- Am I experiencing any of the following: thoughts of hopelessness or that life is not worth living; hearing voices when others are not hearing anything; thinking that people are wanting to harm me in some way, or are against me for some reason; feelings of despair; feelings of intense anxiety or panic for no reason; fatigue or numerous aches and pains (such as headaches) that seem to go along with my emotional difficulties?
If you answered YES to one or more of the questions above, please make an appointment with the Wellness Centre or your family physician as soon as possible.
Let the person you talk to know about your concerns. Remember, if you are concerned that you may harm yourself or someone else, please go immediately to your nearest hospital emergency room and let the staff there know what is happening. It is better to check in than to wait — ongoing wondering can worsen your symptoms. Never feel that you are wasting your or your physician's time — increased clarity helps increase your ability to overcome challenges.
If you have a friend you are concerned about, talk to them about your concerns, and go with them to where you think they may be helped most. Feel free to share this information with them.
REMINDER: This is not a checklist nor a diagnostic tool. Presenting some of the symptoms above does not mean someone has a mental health disorder.
How to be there for someone
Jack.org has created resources to help you you learn to recognize when someone might be struggling with their mental health and gives you Five Golden Rules to help you support and be there for them: Be There Basics.
It is important to talk to the person if you are concerned that they might be struggling with their mental health. Describe the changes you’ve noticed in them and tell them why you’re worried: Say What You See.