What Can Be Done?

The need for addressing mental health issues is never more apparent than after a horrendous tragedy such as occurred in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018.

Besides the unmitigated anguish of parents, the fear survivors must have experienced during the event and the sad loss of friends and fellow students, the vast majority of those of us removed from direct involvement still experienced a wide range of emotions: anger, sadness, sympathy, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness… the list goes on. We cry, “Why can’t something be done?” We pray, donate and call on jaded politicians to enact meaningful gun control legislation (what possible rationale is there for civilians to own assault weapons?).

These and other reactions to tragedy stem from our own need to do something. Unfortunately, none of the courses mentioned address the issue of compromised mental health. Time passes and public outrage soon cools, leaving us as vulnerable as before.

So, what can be done?

The answer lies within you, the reader of these words. Yes, you personally share the responsibility of maintaining society so that it is beneficial to all who live within its generosity. But how, specifically?

Two ways.

First, accept that no one, you and me included, has perfect mental health and that improvement is always possible. By practicing the process of mental health awareness, you become aware of any areas within yourself that need attention. Mental health awareness involves understanding what mental health is, taking steps to avoid obstacles to change and then replacing problematic beliefs (that are at the core of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors) with ones that are more adaptive. Do not attempt the second step until you have completed this first.

When you improve your mental health, or help someone else do so, you have made the world a bit better place.

Your influence can extend worldwide!

Second, you can advocate for individual mental health awareness within your sphere of influence. For example:

Parents: make practicing healthy mental health a priority in front of your children. They will learn from your example.

Teachers (from kindergarten through graduate school): make mental health awareness a part of your curriculum.

Mental health professionals: recognize that healthy mental health means far more than simply the absence of mental illness. Make mental health awareness a part of your protocols beyond assessment, diagnosis and treatment. Your task is incomplete until you do.

Addictions professionals: be aware that healthy mental health is essential to successful recovery and make achieving it a part of your therapeutic program.

Coaches, consultants and mentors: guide your clients towards healthy mental health by educating them on the mental health basics. Your role is educational; refer to a mental health or addictions professional when indicated.

Policy and lawmakers: accept the responsibility of assuring that every policy/law conforms with the tenants of healthy mental health.

Whom did I leave out? Whoever you are, you influence someone simply by your existence. That makes it important for you to practice and model healthy mental health even if you do nothing else. You may never know what difference you make in someone’s life simply by the way you live your own.

Once you become aware of what healthy mental health is, you will be in a better position to recognize signs of compromised mental health that could lead to an untoward or even tragic event. You could then influence a change and thereby prevent a tragedy that might otherwise have occurred. Of course, you’ll never know what might have been but you’ll have a sense of accomplishment from knowing that you have done something worthwhile.

For more information on using this concept of healthy mental health for yourself or within your sphere of influence, contact me at FrankHannah@mentalhealthstrength.com.

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Mental Health Manifesto

Inititative for Mental Health Awareness, Inc. supports World Mental Health Day 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017

There is no more pressing problem in the world today than the lack of healthy mental health. Gun violence, physical and emotional abuse, greed and many other personal, social and political problems have their origin in poor mental health.

Although most would agree that healthy mental health is a worthy objective, there are serious obstacles to achieving it: it lacks a clear-cut definition and there are hidden obstacles that have nothing to do with mental health itself. It is easy to state the qualities displayed by healthy mental health and equally obvious when behaviors suggest compromised mental health. Pointing out neither the positive attributes of healthy mental health nor the problems that ensue when compromised offers any insight on the nature of mental health itself or how to improve it.

Think what it would mean to have a clear-cut, understandable definition of mental health itself. It would provide direction, a goal, guidelines and a roadmap, a starting point for improvement. A definition would become a fixed standard for evaluating the quality of one’s mental health. Obstacles to change would be more easily identifiable, making them simpler to deal with. Specific components of mental health that need to change in order to improve would become apparent. The precise source of maladaptive thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors becomes apparent, exposing them to change.

Many mental disorders that reach a clinically significant level have their origin in poor mental health well before they become clinically diagnosable. Addressing poor mental health can help prevent the development of complications that later require professional attention.

Poor Mental Health Does Not Mean That One Is Mentally Ill

Please bear in mind an important consideration before we proceed to the heart of this manifesto.

To understand and deal with mental health issues, a distinction must be made between it and mental illness. Mental illness generally involves a physical malfunction in the brain such as in Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, mental health depends solely on mental processes within a physically healthy brain. This distinction is important because the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is best left to mental health professionals while every individual is capable of improving his/her own mental health. Considering someone with problematic mental health as mentally ill compromises effective remediation. Approaches designed to improve mental health are (or should be) entirely different from those employed for mental illness.

Therapies and medications abound to treat mental illness. Improving mental health is more difficult because it suffers from a lack of understanding of what constitutes mental health in the first place and from a lack of awareness of some of the obstacles to change. With a clear understanding of what mental health is and with sufficient motivation to overcome the obstacles, a mechanism for making adaptive changes is well known and easily applied.

It is morally repugnant to treat mental health with medication as if it were a mental illness without regard to its underlying dynamics.

 Mental Health Basics

Awareness and application of three mental health basics provide a framework for meaningful progress. The basics include 1) a workable definition of mental health, 2) awareness of major obstacles to achieving it and 3) a simple and effective process for making adaptive changes.

Components of Mental Health I:
Intrinsic Behavioral Goals (Inbornintentions)

Every human being is born with four intrinsic behavioral goals and it is in our nature to strive in their direction. The four goals are 1) human dignity, 2) freedom of choice, 3) sense of accomplishment and 4) love.

We possess human dignity because we enjoy a number of qualities and characteristics in excess of any other species. These include consciousness, spoken and written language, rational as well as abstract thought, dexterity in making and using tools, the understanding and manipulation of numbers, a wide range of feelings and emotions, a conscience, a sense of aesthetics, at least a basic understanding of time and space, the capacity for introspection and even an awareness of eventual death.

The mentally healthy person respects human dignity in self and others. Nothing that varies between individuals has any bearing on human dignity. Male/female, young/old, nationality, beliefs, economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, hair/eye/skin color, healthy/sick, behavior, attitudes, feelings, thoughts… none of these add to or detract from human dignity in any way. Disrespecting a person because of any variable is a sure sign of compromised mental health.

Freedom of choice is our innate desire to choose freely among alternatives. It is essential to make choices in order to function, maintain control and develop and we would like to do so with as few restrictions as possible.

Our sense of accomplishment stems from the necessity to acquire food, clothing and shelter. Today, of course, there are innumerable other ways of satisfying our sense of accomplishment. We have a pleasant feeling when we have accomplished any task.

Love, in the sense used here, calls for seeing self, others and the outside world in a positive, affirmative and healthy light. It means having a positive world-view. Additionally, it means accepting positive feelings and behaviors directed towards us.

Robert G Olson in his book, An Introduction to Existentialism, (1962, Dover Publications, Inc.) lists four human values, essentially those described above. I have taken the liberty of reformulating them slightly and coined the term inbornintentions to encompass them as a group for easy reference. Their role in mental health is essentially the same although one is more important than the others.

Components of Mental Health II:
Basic Beliefs

We all have thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors. Where did they come from? Why do we think, feel, express ourselves and act the way we do?

Following every significant experience, the subconscious mind retains three components: content, feeling and meaning. Content is the memory of what happened, feelings are the associated emotional attachments and meaning is the basic belief retained because of the experience. It is what one believes about the topic. Every basic belief has been learned, we were not born with any of them.

Basic beliefs are true for the holder (more on this later) and are retained throughout life unless modified or replaced.

Basic beliefs filter every new sensation and determine whether it is 1) a danger or threat, 2) significant or 3) insignificant. Those that fall into the latter category are simply ignored. The brain does not have the capacity or need to treat every incoming sensation with a comparable amount of attention.

The critical role of a basic belief is to determine if the incoming sensation is a threat. If so, a defense mechanism is initiated instantly without conscious intervention. We act before we think. This is crucial because if we did have to think in order to deterred if that rustling in the bushes over there was or was not a sabretooth tiger bent on having lunch, we might not live to be aware of the answer.

Finally, if the new sensation is significant but not dangerous, we act accordingly. This makes basic beliefs the source of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors. Although we have free will, we are still restricted by what we have come to believe, making us prisoners, for better or worse, of our own experience.

Mental Health Defined

With a clear understanding of its two components, consider this definition:

Mental health is the state of mind determined by the relationship between intrinsic inbornintentions and learned basic beliefs. When basic beliefs and inbornintentions are compatible with each other, one enjoys healthy mental health. When a basic belief is contrary to an inbornintention, mental health has been compromised.

Recall now the advantages and benefits of having a well-defined concept of mental health.

Obstacles to Change I:
Anxiety’s Influence

We have two brains.

When we are free of anxiety, we have at our disposal all of the thinking, reasoning and rational capacity that is within our nature. This is our “thinking brain”, the marvelous instrument that largely determines our humanity.

However, when anxiety strikes due to the perception of a threat, the thinking brain is hijacked and is put aside in favor of the “feeling brain.” As wonderful as it is to think, it is even more important to stay alive. Therefore, when there is a threat, self-preservation becomes paramount and the body automatically initiates a defense mechanism. In most instances, this is done without conscious thought before any reasoning takes place. In certain circumstances, this can be altered, but the vast majority the time we act before thinking. Prove this to yourself by recalling the last time that you said or did something while anxious that you later regretted.

This is important to understand because the process of change required to improve mental health begins with a thinking brain process. If the feeling brain is in control, progress becomes impossible. 

Obstacles to Change II:
Commitment to One’s Personal Truth

It is a part of human nature to acquire basic beliefs throughout life. They provide direction, guidance, help sort order out of chaos and tell us where to go, how to act and what to do. All of this makes them an extremely important component of our existence. Therefore, they must be true. We simply could not function if we did not believe in our truths, our basic beliefs.

Consequently, we have a firm, almost unalterable adherence to our beliefs. Since we believe something to be true, any alternative must be false and we are loath to embrace it. If we were to embrace a new belief, it would imply that previously we believed a falsehood, which is not an easy admission to make.

The result is that it takes an open mind and a willingness to change in order to overcome the obstacle of our commitment to our own personal truth.

Obstacles to Change III:
Other Obstacles

Stigma, lack of a definition of mental health, insufficient motivation, dependence on reason and logic, fear of the unknown, self-sabotage, inertia and impatience are all obstacles to change, to say nothing of a lack of knowledge as to how to make desirable changes.

With all these factors working against adaptive change, it is no wonder that problematic mental health is so persistent. But it does not have to be so. By having a clear understanding of the objective, overcoming obstacles, and changing problematic basic beliefs, healthy mental health is obtainable.

How To Improve Mental Health

Based on understanding that mental health is determined by the relationship between learned basic beliefs and intrinsic inbornintentions and that the greater the correlation between these two the better one’s men’s mental health, there follows a clear-cut, simple process to improve. This is a joint-venture between one’s conscious and subconscious minds since the problem lies in the subconscious mind but the solution must originate consciously.

Step 1: Identify a subconscious problematic basic belief. The way to bring a subconscious basic belief up to consciousness is through introspection. That is, search inside by asking yourself “Why?” do I think/feel/behave the way I do? What is the triggering belief? Continue addressing relevant questions until you can express the problematic basic belief.

Step 2: Consciously construct a positive statement that 1) is contrary to the problematic basic belief and 2) is consistent with an inbornintention.

Step 3: Deliberately practice behaviors consistent with the positive statement. Continue doing so until the consciously chosen adaptive behaviors become automatic. At that point, the conscious statement has become a subconscious basic belief and is now generating its own thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors, reflecting an improved mental health!

New possibilities for improving mental health and the quality of one’s life come about with understanding and applying the mental health basics. To do this is to practice the Art of Living.

In a Nutshell
Mental Health Basics at a Glance

Mental health defined: The relationship between two factors in the brain determine an individual’s mental health: basic beliefs and inbornintentions. The higher the positive correlation between the two, the healthier one’s mental health, and vice versa.

Basic beliefs are truths acquired through experience and stored in the subconscious. They are learned, true for the individual, and retained throughout life unless replaced. Basic beliefs are important because they determine one’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors.

Inbornintentions are four intrinsic behavioral goals toward which humans naturally strive. They are 1) human dignity, 2) freedom of choice, 3) sense of accomplishment and 4) love. Inbornintentions are immutable and common to every human. Individuals relate positively or negatively to them according to their basic beliefs.

Obstacles prevent progress. Minimizing anxiety and remaining open to changing a strongly held truth (a basic belief) will overcome two major obstacles.

One pathway to improvement is by replacing a problematic basic belief with one that is consistent with an inbornintention. Accomplish this by: 1) bringing a problematic subconscious basic belief up to consciousness through introspection, 2) formulating a cognitive belief that is contrary to the problematic one just identified and 3) deliberately practicing behaviors consistent with the new cognitive belief until it becomes automatic.

Mental health awareness is the process of evaluating the quality of one’s own mental health and taking steps to improve. Even the poorest mental health does not imply mental illness. No one has perfect mental health and improvement is always possible.

*** END MANIFESTO ***

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Human Nature and Mental Health

Let’s do a brief thought experiment.

Imagine that you are old enough to reason intelligently, you’re physically healthy and perfectly normal in every respect except one: you have no basic beliefs!

In real life, experience left you with a huge number of basic beliefs that are stored subconsciously. They determine almost all your thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors. However, in this thought experiment, you have no beliefs about anything! You are as free of beliefs as a newborn baby.

Still, you exist and must get on with life as you perceive it. Your task in this experiment is to determine the fundamental things that you would think, feel and do in such a scenario.

Please pause here to develop your answers. Write them down. The answers are within you and discovering them for yourself will make them more meaningful than if you simply read the rest of this essay.

It is prefectly natural to respect human dignity, feel free to make choices, accomplish to the best of our ability and to love.

Inbornintentions Are a Part of Human Nature

The answers have to do with human nature. The word “human” requires that the characteristics identified are common to every living person and the word “nature” means that these characteristics are inborn in humans; human nature is not subject to the vicissitudes of basic beliefs.

Of course, human nature is complex and there is more to it than just those parts affected by basic beliefs. The premise here is that the greater the consistency between your basic beliefs and human nature (as best it can be understood), the better your mental health. That’s why it’s important to understand this topic.

Now back now to our thought experiment. Upon reflection, perhaps you identified four significant activity areas:

First and most importantly, you realize that your life has infinite value. This insight comes from recognizing the myriad of qualities that you possess in excess of any other animal.  These include a high level of consciousness, capacity for language, abstract thought, writing and mathematics, a concept of time and space and the capacity for introspection. All these, and others, entitles you to claim, rightly so, that you have human dignity. Even in the absence of basic beliefs, you will do everything in your power to continue living.

Your need for food, clothing and shelter exists independent of beliefs. You will set about acquiring them and derive a sense of accomplishment when successful. As you become more proficient, your ability to accomplish will extend far beyond the basics, leading to ever-greater satisfactions of the sense of accomplishment.

You are free to think, choose and behave as you wish and will resent and resist any restrictions on these activities. This makes freedom of choice an important component of human nature.

Finally, you pause, look around and observe the beauty and goodness inherent in the physical world and the humans inhabiting it. This can include a strong affinity for another person, which leads to a core facet of human nature: procreation. With a broad view of world, a profound sense of well-being, comfort and peace becomes your worldview, otherwise known as love.

To summarize, human dignity, sense of accomplishment, freedom of choice and love are four intrinsic behavioral goals, inbornintentions, that are a part of human nature. Basic beliefs consistent with them speak to healthy mental health, and vice versa.

The core ideas expressed above reformulate a concept of human values expressed by Robert G. Olson in “An Introduction to Existentialism”, Dover Publications, Inc., 1962,   pp 17, 18

Addition resources:

Book: Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, by Frank Hannah.
Paperback
Kindle eBook

YouTube channel: Choose Mental Health (a series of 10 videos on how to improve your mental health).

Facebook: Choose Mental Health

For questions, comments or concerns, contact Frank Hannah through the contact form on the right.

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Make America Mentally Healthy Again

Poor mental health compromises America's greatness.

America’s Greatness Depends on the Mental Health of Its Citizens

Since the mental health of every citizen and resident in America either contributes to or detracts from the national state of mental health, you can help make America mentally healthy again by improving your own mental health.

To do so, you first need to know what mental health is and then how to improve it.

Most of us have satisfactory mental health, even though it can never be perfect. However, some thoughts, feelings and behaviors clearly indicate compromised mental health. Start with behaviors stemming from greed, apathy or pride. Then add prejudice, discrimination, xenophobia, prejudice, misogyny, bigotry, unwarranted judgments, intolerance, mistaken assumptions… and many others. All these reflect compromised mental health wherever found.

What is mental health anyway?

No one has perfect mental health. Its quality is reflected in thoughts, feelings and behavior and these are determined by what you subconsciously believe. So, to understand what mental health is, you need to know about two components in the brain that are outside conscious awareness…until you pay attention to them.

The first significant component of mental health is a set of intrinsic behavioral goals that are common to everyone, known collectively as “inbornintentions.” There are four, (human dignity, freedom of choice, sense of accomplishment and love) but we’ll consider here only the most significant contributor to mental health: human dignity.

Human dignity is a quality possessed by every human being. It is innate and permanent. It does not vary between individuals. It is not lost by problematic behaviors nor can it be increased by selfless behaviors.

The term describes the total of positive characteristics that define us as human beings, including consciousness, ability to think/reason, language, dexterity, introspection, conscience, writing, mathematics, aesthetics, conceptualization of time and space and humor, among others.

These qualities, possessed by all, justify the claim that every human being possesses human dignity.

The other significant subconscious component of mental health is the set of basic beliefs acquired over a lifetime.

Every significant experience leaves three traces in the subconscious brain: a memory, an associated emotion and a meaning derived from the event. This meaning is a basic belief. Memories and emotion may fade over time, but basic beliefs are retained throughout life unless replaced by new experiences.

The quality of your mental health is determined by the relationship between your intrinsic inbornintentions and your acquired basic beliefs. The greater the consistency or agreement between the two, the better your mental health.

The key to healthy mental health

The key to healthy mental health is to hold basic beliefs that are consistent with the inbornintention of human dignity.

Those holding a positive self-concept support self and those within their sphere of influence. Those with a negative self-concept act in ways detrimental to themselves and others.

Before we explore exactly how to change your beliefs about yourself, bear in mind that since you have human dignity, so must every other human being. If you respect your own human dignity, you will also respect it in others.

Whatever you currently believe about yourself, it’s just that: a belief, and it can be changed. Remember that human dignity is still a part of you regardless of whether you realize it. Human dignity is permanent and immutable as long as you draw breath.

How to improve your mental health

Believing in your own human dignity is always possible. Here’s how in three steps:

1) Introspection. The goal here is to bring a subconscious basic belief up to consciousness where you can deal with it.

To do this, look inside yourself (introspection) to identify what you currently believe about yourself. Express this concept both verbally and in writing. Why you currently hold this belief or how you came to believe it is not important. Don’t judge it, just accept for the moment that it is what you believe.

For example, you might consider yourself as unworthy, undeserving, unsuitable, good-for-nothing, valueless, degraded, ignoble, no-account and/or without merit.

2) Reformulate. In this step, consciously form a concept that is opposite the basic belief that you just identified and is consistent with human dignity.

Any negative self-concept can be replaced by a simple affirmation such as, “I am a worthwhile human being with human dignity.” That’s all you need to define yourself.

3) Practice. The affirmation you just constructed is useless by itself. It is in your conscious mind, but the subconscious basic belief has probably not changed. It is possible to have had an epiphany and change instantly, but this is unreliable as a process for improvement.

When you have done this consistently for a relatively short period of time, adaptive behaviors will become automatic and you will no longer have to make conscious choices.

What’s in it for you and for America?

Everyone has the right to believe as they do; that’s an exercise in freedom of choice (an inbornintention). Recognizing the availability of choices and opportunities is far more likely when you are in tune with your own human dignity.

Our sense of accomplishment (an inbornintention) calls for behaviors consistent with beliefs, otherwise nothing would get done. When you believe in human dignity, your accomplishments will benefit both you and those affected by your efforts.

Holding basic beliefs that are consistent with the inbornintention of love (not the emotion but the mindset of seeing the outside world in a positive, optimistic and hospitable light) is far more likely if your basic beliefs regarding human dignity are already in place.

While it is not possible to hold basic beliefs that are perfectly consistent with freedom of choice, sense of accomplishment or love, it is possible to unreservedly believe in your own human dignity. Doing so makes you self-confident and comfortable with yourself.

Summary

Every man, woman and child in the country can contribute to making America mentally healthy again by considering the extent to which they understand, accept, believe in and act in ways that are consistent with human dignity in self and others.

Resources

Book: Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, by Frank Hannah.
Paperback
Kindle eBook

YouTube channel: Choose Mental Health

Facebook: Choose Mental Health

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Athens Anti-War Declaration

Inititiative for Mental Healh Awareness, Inc. is proud to support the Athens Anti-War Declaration, 2016

Athens Anti-war Declaration

Our organization, “Initiative for Mental Health Awareness, Inc.” is pleased to join over 100 other bodies in calling much needed attention to the negative effects on mental health of those affected by the the horrors of war.

Please read the following declaration and promote it within your own sphere of influence.

ATHENS ANTI-WAR DECLARATION

The deleterious Mental Health consequences of human-made disasters are well-known and humanity stands witness to their catastrophic impact.

War is the worst of human-made disasters and has tragic and unacceptable consequences on the mental health of its victims. The catastrophic impact of war on mental health is longitudinal, transgenerational, and amplified by refugee crises both in countries of origin and elsewhere.

According to the WHO (2004) mental health promotion should include efforts for Peace, in view of the well-established mental health consequences of war conflicts. It is therefore within the rights and obligations of the international mental health community represented by the various organizations that express its views to address this issue and call for:

  1. Termination of war conflicts, wherever they occur
  1. Psychological and material support to the victims of war conflicts : refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, immigrants, psychologically affected or incapacitated persons and any other category of people whose mental health is at risk or who have been damaged by war
  1. Psychosocial  and humanitarian material support to the citizens of the host countries whose mental health systems are extremely challenged  by the consequences of war conflicts
  1. Call for urgent and coordinated action to attain the above goals

Given in Athens,  25 March 2016

Endorsing Organizations:

  1. ADHD Hellas
  2. Advocacy Group for the Mentally Ill (Cyprus)
  3. Albanian Psychiatric Association
  4. Association Francaise de Psychiatrie
  5. Association of Mental Health in Portuguese Language (ASMELP)
  6. Association of Siblings of Persons with Mental Health Problems (KINAPSI)
  7. Barbados Association of Psychiatrists
  8. Cyprus Psychiatric Association
  9. Ecuadorian Association of Psychiatry
  10. Egyptian Association for Mental Health
  11. Egyptian Psychiatric Association
  12. Estonian Psychiatric Association
  13. Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, Auckland University of Technology
  14. Foundation Contener (Argentina)
  15. Gamian Europe
  16. German Academy for Psychoanalysis
  17. Hellenic-American Psychiatric Association
  18. Hellenic Center for Mental Health and Research
  19. Hellenic Psychiatric Association
  20. Icelandic Psychiatric Association
  21. Initiative for Mental Health Awareness Inc.
  22. Institute of Mental Health, Belgrade
  23. International Association of Medical Colleges (IAOMC)
  24. International College of Person-centered Medicine (ICPCM)
  25. International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)
  26. International Federation of Telephone Emergency Services (IFOTES)
  27. Iraqi Society of Psychiatrists
  28. Lebanese Psychiatric Association
  29. Lithuanian Psychiatric Association
  30. Medical Psychologic Society (France)
  31. Mental Health America
  32. National Institute for Public Health and Mental Health Research, Auckland University of Technology
  33. Observatoire Francophone de Medecine de la Personne
  34. Palestinian Center for Growth and Human Development
  35. Panhellenic Medical Association
  36. Philippine Psychiatric Association
  37. Portuguese Society of Psychiatry and Mental Health
  38. Psychiatric Association for Eastern Europe and the Balkans
  39. Psychiatric Association of Bosnia-Herzegovina
  40. Psychiatric Association of Turkey
  41. Psychiatric Department of the Hellenic Red Cross Hospital
  42. Russian Society of Psychiatrists
  43. Serbian Psychiatric Association
  44. Slovac Psychiatric Association
  45. Society of Preventive Psychiatry
  46. South African Society of Psychiatrists
  47. Spanish Association of Mental Health Professionals
  48. Spanish Society of Psychiatry
  49. Syrian Association for Mental Health
  50. The Metropolitan Association of Psychiatry, Buenos Aires
  51. The Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health
  52. Turkish Neuropsychiatric Society
  53. UNESCO Hellas
  54. University of Athens, Department of Psychology
  55. University of Athens, 1st Department of Psychiatry
  56. University of Ioannina, Department of Psychiatry
  57. University of Thessaloniki (Aristotle), 3rd Department of Psychiatry
  58. University of Thessaly, Department of Psychiatry
  59. University of Thrace (Democritus) Medical School, Department of Psychiatry
  60. World Association for Dynamic Psychiatry
  61. World Federation for Mental Health
  62. World Psychiatric Association
  63. WPA Section on Art and Psychiatry
  64. WPA Section on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  65. WPA Section on Classification, Diagnostic Assessment and Nomenclature
  66. WPA Section on Disaster Psychiatry
  67. WPA Section on Eating Disorders
  68. WPA Section on Evidence Based Psychiatry
  69. WPA Section on Exercise, Psychiatry and Sports
  70. WPA Section on Family Research and Intervention
  71. WPA Section on Forensic Psychiatry
  72. WPA Section on Genetics in Psychiatry
  73. WPA Section on HIV/AIDS Psychiatry
  74. WPA Section on Immunology and Psychiatry
  75. WPA Section on Interdisciplinary Collaboration
  76. WPA Section on Literature and Psychiatry
  77. WPA Section on Mass Media and Mental Health
  78. WPA Section on Mental Health Economics
  79. WPA Section on Military Psychiatry
  80. WPA Section on Occupational Psychiatry
  81. WPA Section on Old Age Psychiatry
  82. WPA Section on Perinatal and Infant Mental Health
  83. WPA Section on Personality Disorders
  84. WPA Section on Pharmacopsychiatry
  85. WPA Section on Preventive Psychiatry
  86. WPA Section on Psychiatric Education
  87. WPA Section on Psychiatric Electrophysiology
  88. WPA Section on Psychiatric Rehabilitation
  89. WPA Section on Psychiatry and Human Sexuality
  90. WPA Section on Psychiatry and Sleep Wakefulness Disorders
  91. WPA Section on Psychiatry, Law and Ethics
  92. WPA Section on Psychiatry, Medicine and Primary Care
  93. WPA Section on Psychiatry in Developing Countries
  94. WPA Section on Psychiatry in Private Practice
  95. WPA Section on Psychoanalysis in Psychiatry
  96. WPA Section on Psychological Consequences of Torture and Persecution
  97. WPA Section on Psychoneurobiology
  98. WPA Section on Psycho-oncology and Palliative Care
  99. WPA Section on Psychotherapy
  100. WPA Section on Public Policy and Psychiatry
  101. WPA Section on Rural Mental Health
  102. WPA Section on Stress Research
  103. WPA Section on Suicidology
  104. WPA Section on Urban Mental Health
  105. WPA Section on Women’s Mental Health

Address for communication : profgchristodoulou@gmail.com

Resources

Book: Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, by Frank Hannah.
Paperback
Kindle eBook

YouTube channel: Choose Mental Health

Facebook: Choose Mental Health

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Mental Health and Freedom of Speech

Prologue

Before delving into the topic of mental health and freedom of speech, please be aware that regular readers of this blog know that those with healthy mental health hold basic beliefs that are closely aligned with inbornintentions*. Equally important, readers also know that most thoughts, feelings and behaviors reflect one’s mental health, good or poor.

Keep in mind: healthy mental health is far more than simply the absence of mental illness; no one has perfect mental health and anyone can improve their mental health.

Problematic Freedom of Speech: Two Examples

In late November 2014, Sony Pictures was preparing to release “The Interview”, a film that involved the planned assassination of North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un. Before the actual release, Sony was subjected to a massive hacking attack with the subsequent publication of confidential information of employees and business associates. The cyber-attack was personally devastating for Sony employees whose right to privacy was compromised. Sony’s business operations were seriously impaired. The governments of both the United States and North Korea became embroiled.

Another example: The French newspaper Charlie Hebdo was attacked by terrorists on January 7, 2015 after publishing cartoons offensive to followers of Muhammad. Twelve people were killed and others wounded.

What Are the Mental Health Issues?

Both Sony and Charlie Hebdo were exercising their legal freedom of speech rights and the intentionally destructive responses were clearly illegal. So what’s the mental health concern?

These events involve a conflict of values. One party values the exercise of freedom of speech and the other values the expectation of respect for their beliefs. Which of these legitimate values should take precedence? Or should both values be respected? Is it mentally healthy to condone freedom of speech? Is it mentally healthy to ignore or disrespect the beliefs of others?

Understanding Mental Health Issues

Let’s sort this out using the concept of optimum mental health. The mentally healthy mind holds basic beliefs that result in behaviors that respect all four inbornintentions, especially human dignity*.

Freedom to speak does not mean that what you say will be wise, individually helpful or beneficial to society.

Freedom of Speech Carries Responsibilities

Taking the life of 12 newspaper employees was the ultimate insult to their human dignity and as such was an example of extremely poor mental health. Hacking into Sony computers and publishing confidential information (an ironic instance of freedom of speech, by the way!) insulted the human dignity of those exposed by embarrassing them and holding them up to ridicule, compromised their freedom of choice* to maintain the privacy of their own information and impaired Sony’s corporate sense of accomplishment* by interrupting their business operations. All evidences of poor mental health on the part of the terrorists and hackers.

On the other hand, making a movie or publishing cartoons that insult, threaten, demeans, ridicules or belittles the human dignity of a political or religious leader revered by millions also reflects poor mental health. Insulting the human dignity of any individual would be an example of poor mental health; the consequences do not need to reverberate worldwide.

Although freedom of speech is legal, it is not always mentally healthy to exercise that right, nor does having the power to exact revenge make it mentally healthy to do so.

Let’s Get Personal

At a personal level, we all have the right to freedom of speech and are free to do so within our sphere of influence. The suggestion here is to speak only in ways that are mentally healthy. Unhealthy speech would be any that insults, belittles, compromises or holds up to ridicule the human dignity, freedom of choice, sense of accomplishment or love in others.

Consider your response to the speech of others. First, think about why you find certain speech agreeable. If you agree with or support speech that is hateful, derogatory, demeaning, racist, homophobic or is otherwise contrary to an inbornintention, perhaps it’s time to look at your own mental health.

When you find your blood pressure rising in response to the speech of others, act assertively but not aggressively. Speak out. Write a letter to the editor. Call your elected representative. Speak privately with the offender. Express yourself. It is not mentally healthy to ignore grievous offenses.

 Summary

Oppressive legal restrictions to freedom of speech would be contrary to democratic principles. However, the exercise of that right can best be done in an atmosphere of respect.

Questions, comments, concerns? Express your freedom of speech below!

Definition and References

*Inbornintentions: four intrinsic and innate behavioral goals toward which all individuals would gravitate were it not for their contrary basic beliefs. The behavioral goals are human dignity, freedom of choice, sense of accomplishment and love.

Resources

Book: Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, by Frank Hannah.
Paperback
Kindle eBook

YouTube channel: Choose Mental Health

Facebook: Choose Mental Health

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A New Beginning

Impalnating the tiny seed of a simple question has grown into an extensive examination of healthy mental health.

Growth is a Marvelous Process

It all began with a simple question, “What is mental health?” Several years ago, a small group of mental health counselors were chatting during a break in the conference we were attending. Since mental health counseling was our profession, the question was a fair one. But the answers offered seemed inadequate. They all described behaviors, qualities and/or characteristics that would result from someone having healthy mental health, but none answered the original question.

I remained silent myself, unable to formulate a satisfactory answer. I was reminded of a bright young grammar school student who once asked his teacher, “What is gravity?” He was not satisfied with the teacher’s answer which consisted of an accurate description of what gravity does, but not what it is. The same, I thought, is true of mental health. It’s easy to recognize, but difficult to define.

My inability to answer the question really bugged me. Here I was a licensed mental health counselor unable to define the very core of my profession! Unacceptable! So I set about finding an answer, which turned out to be a not so easy task.

It was soon apparent that mental health was far more than simply the absence of mental illness. So, a definition like, “One who is not mentally ill is mentally healthy.” was ridiculous.

More questions crowded my mind. Why does the quality of mental health vary from one person to another? Can an individual improve his/her mental health? If so, how? What barriers exist that keep one from improving their mental health? Is mental health a single entity, or does it have a number of components, each with a quality of its own?

The answers were slow in coming, but as they emerged, I began to incorporate them into my clinical practice. The results were encouraging as clients showed improvement more rapidly and more effectively than ever before. Then it dawned on me that these concepts would be useful for anyone in their daily life and far beyond the clinician’s office. No need to pay for something so basic as healthy mental health, especially in the absence of mental illness.

What better way to reach someone interested in improving their mental health than the Internet? Ah, the marvels of modern technology! So this website was born setting out the basic concepts in full but lacking in details that would further develop the ideas. No website could possibly do justice to all that needed to be said. Thus came to be published Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, a paperback from Amazon and on Kindle as an eBook.

So the concepts were out there both in print and on the Internet, but they were static in that once published, there was no way to interact, to respond to comments, questions or concerns or to throw out fresh ideas on how to make use of the concepts, provide more details about applications and provide a place for interactions with anyone interested. Okay, to solve this problem, a blog would be useful. So now we have this website www.mentalhealthstrength.com.

Although the responses were uniformly positive, the process was still passive: just waiting for people to buy the book or drop by the websites. Something more was needed to become proactive in finding others, not only to improve their own mental health but also to use their expertise in getting the concepts across to others. A nonprofit corporation would do nicely.

It took a year and a half to get Initiative for Mental Health Awareness, Inc. legally incorporated in Florida, Internal Revenue Service approval as a 501(c)(3) corporation (contributions are tax-deductible) and registration with the Florida Department Of Consumer Affairs as an organization accepting charitable donations. The new corporation, nicknamed I4MHA, Inc. explains its goals, purposes and objectives here.

It is truly a new beginning. A beginning rich with opportunities for learning, growing, developing and enriching lives through mental health awareness.

Resources

Book: Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, by Frank Hannah.
Paperback
Kindle eBook

YouTube channel: Choose Mental Health

Facebook: Choose Mental Health

Posted in General | Leave a comment

It’s Mental Health Month: So what is mental health anyway?

May is Mental Health Month, making it the perfect time to consider what mental health actually is and resolve to do something about it.

Do not neglect the physical and the spirtitual when you undertake to improve your mental health.

Mental Health Also Encompasses the Physical and Spiritual

All too often, mental health is considered as simply the absence of mental illness, but this is far from the case. One can have not the slightest evidence of a diagnosable disease or disorder and still have poor mental health! For instance, prejudice, terrorism, and thievery are usually instances of poor mental health, while having a low self-image, a defeatist attitude or a negative worldview also indicates compromised mental health.

No one has perfect mental health, and anyone can improve in that area. But before starting out to improve your mental health, you need to have an idea of what mental health actually is, how you personally relate to it at the moment and how to make desirable changes that lead to improvement. You also need to be aware of some of the roadblocks that you will inevitably run into.

Humans evolved to have healthy mental health. It’s in our genes. But along comes the experiences of everyday living and the excellent mental health that we would otherwise enjoy becomes compromised. Sometimes seriously. Sometimes to the extent that mental and/or physical illnesses do, in fact, develop.

So what does it mean to be mentally healthy? You are mentally healthy when your basic beliefs are consistent with the four inbornintentions. Whoa! What on earth does that mean? In essence, it is your personal balance between nature and nurture. “Nature” is common to us all and “nurture” is unique to the individual .

“Inbornintentions” is a new word coined to convey the idea that there is a natural (inborn) set of behaviors that humans are structured to move towards (intentions). Four inbornintentions constitute the nature part of mental health. We are genetically programmed or motivated to behave in positive ways towards 1) human dignity, 2) freedom of choice, 3) sense of accomplishment and 4) love. These four inbornintentions are present in everyone from birth to death, and do not vary from one individual to another.

Basic beliefs are the meanings we attach to life’s experiences. They are stored subconsciously as concepts and form the rationale for most thoughts, feelings and behaviors because they constitute “truth” for the individual. That’s the nurture part. If our basic beliefs allowed us to think, feel and act in perfect consistency with inbornintentions, we would have perfect mental health. While this is impossible, the closer your basic beliefs coincide with the inbornintentions, the better your mental health, and the more they digress, the poorer your mental health.

Of course, this is an all too brief explanation of what mental health is or to hint at what needs to be done to improve. A full explanation can be found here. No charge. However, for those who want something to hold in their hand, the paperback book “Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management” also has a full explanation and is available from Amazon.com or it may be downloaded to your Kindle device. All sales proceeds go to the nonprofit corporation Initiative for Mental Health Awareness Inc.

Resources

Book: Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, by Frank Hannah.
Paperback
Kindle eBook

YouTube channel: Choose Mental Health

Facebook: Choose Mental Health

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Open Minds and Mental Health

Most of the time we go about our daily business consciously aware of what we are doing but rarely giving any thought to why we’re doing it. We perform routine tasks habitually, and when something out of the ordinary does occur, our reaction is usually automatic without giving any thought as to why we react the way we do. In this sense, our minds are closed. This is necessary since it would take far too much time to examine every sensation, thought, feeling or behavior before deciding on the next step.

However, this perfectly normal behavior causes problems when we don’t take the trouble to examine problematic behaviors. Without open-mindedly examining such behaviors, they are likely to continue, constantly making a bad situation even worse. To paraphrase a basic tenet in physics, a behavior in motion will remain in motion until examined.

What does it mean to have an open mind?

Open minds accomplish far more than those that are closed.

Progress Requires An Open Mind

Lone Sisk (1900-1994), a highly esteemed professor at Milligan College a generation ago, used to invite students for informal discussions around what he called his “Philosopher’s Log” in the backyard of his campus home. Although he headed the Department of Physics and Chemistry, he wanted his students to know that there was more to life than what could be found in those disciplines. A favorite phrases of his was, “There is always an easier way to do anything.” One needs to have an open mind to find those easier ways.

Having an open mind allows you to examine new ideas. On occasion, you will become aware of something that is new, different and perhaps contrary to your established way of thinking. Rather than thoughtlessly rejecting or discarding these instances, an open mind will allow you to consider whether the idea has merit.

Open-mindedness leads inexorably to an examination of your basic beliefs. Conscious thinking draws on material accumulated over a lifetime and stored subconsciously. These beliefs are stubborn in that, being beliefs, they are true and strongly resist change. That’s why it takes the conscious effort of an open mind to find easier, better, more adaptive ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.

What happens when you have a closed mind?

Several problems crop up if your mind is closed. You are likely to be highly judgmental of others when they are different from you in any way. If their skin color, ethnicity, political orientation or sexual preferences do not coincide with yours, it is likely that you will consider them wrong, misinformed, morally suspect, ignorant or inferior to yourself.

Of course, certain behaviors deserve judgment, but judgment is best rendered only after examining the basic beliefs behind those judgments. Blindly rushing to judgment is evidence of a closed mind.

You may not consider it a problem, but life can be awfully boring if you have a closed mind. Day-to-day routines can be mind-numbingly dull without the variety that comes with open-mindedness. Over the span of the decade, you will have one years’ experience 20 times rather than the richness of 20 years’ experience.

Expect resistance

Open-mindedly examining a new situation or idea takes conscious effort in the thinking brain. As readers of this blog know, the subconscious feeling brain will strenuously oppose any such activity since examining a new idea will present a threat to a “true” basic belief. That’s why open-mindedness is so difficult; it goes against what is known, safe and comfortable. The feeling brain likes inertia far more than change.

How to develop open-mindedness

It is tempting to say that to develop an open mind you have to have an open mind, but that would be ridiculous. Seriously, a place to start would be to ask yourself a question or two the next time you encounter a new idea or situation. “Do I agree with this idea? Why, or why not? What would be the advantage/disadvantage to me if I embraced it? What/who is presenting the idea? Is it scientifically valid? Is there a credentialed authority recommending it? Does it run counter to my morals or religious beliefs? How would life be different if I changed my mind? What would I lose if I don’t agree with this idea?” These and similar questions assure that you have an open mind and lead you to choices and decisions that are best for you.

Is it mentally healthy to have an open mind?

Whether one is open- or closed minded does not in itself determine mental health. This is determined by how well basic beliefs are in accord with inbornintentions. Nevertheless, if we were to run a statistical analysis, there would probably be a strong positive correlation between open-mindedness and optimum mental health. But, as we know, correlation does not imply causation.

Remember, you always have the freedom to choose between open and closed mindedness!

For further information

For a better understanding of some terms used in this post, such as “thinking brain,” “feeling brain,” “inbornintentions,” “basic beliefs,” “human dignity,” “sense of accomplishment,” “anxiety,” or “defense mechanisms,” see the Glossary. Alternatively, find a copy of the paperback Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, available on Amazon.com or the eBook on Kindle, either accessible by clicking on the link on the right of this post.

Resources

Book: Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, by Frank Hannah.
Paperback
Kindle eBook

YouTube channel: Choose Mental Health

Facebook: Choose Mental Health

Posted in Basic Beliefs, Freedom of Choice | Leave a comment

Why do you believe what you believe?

Suppose someone in a social situation brings up the topic of global warming. How would you respond? You might agree with the speaker, or you might strenuously disagree. Whatever your response, it would reflect the beliefs that you already hold about the topic. We consciously express only what is stored subconsciously.

An interesting aspect of verbally expressing an underlying basic belief is that sometimes what comes out of our mouth does not reflect what we actually believe. This is not when we deliberately lie, but an example of how the brain sometimes operates in an out of the ordinary way, usually under the influence of anxiety.

Basic beliefs determine behavior

In addition to verbal expressions, most other behaviors also reflect a subconscious basic belief. Only reflexes and instinctive behaviors originate elsewhere in the brain. Basic beliefs are extremely important for our well-being because they guide behaviors, be they beneficial or problematic.

“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”. This quote, attributed to the Jesuits, an Order of the Catholic Church, reflects the importance of early childhood learning. A child’s deeply embedded basic beliefs result from his/her experiences in their formative years, thus determining their subsequent behavior. Children (or adults) are generally not aware of the underlying cause of their thoughts and behaviors, rarely questioning why they think or act the way they do. Or else they may assume that they are acting/thinking solely in response to what is going on around them. Too often, thoughts and actions are simply there, their origin unquestioned. From childhood to adulthood, we continue to act in self-detrimental ways when we do not examine our underlying basic beliefs.

Basic beliefs are acquired through experience and are in turn the basis of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors.

The Sources and Consequences of Basic Beliefs

Change is always possible

However, the fatalism implied in the quote is avoidable. It is always possible to change a basic belief, no matter how deeply embedded, by bringing it up to consciousness, forming a new and different belief on the topic in the thinking brain, and constructing experiences that are consistent with the new cognitively formed belief. Just as early experiences determined the original basic belief and behaviors, new experiences establish new beliefs and behaviors. But unless you are proactive in changing your basic beliefs, you will remain a prisoner of your experiences.

Barriers to change

Changing a basic belief is simple, but it is not always easy. By definition, a basic belief is true, so you must overcome any internal resistance before change can take place. Also, change requires a high level of motivation because it is in our nature to hold on strongly to what we believe to be true. There are other barriers to change as well. If you are not aware that a basic belief exists, change is unlikely. When you are anxious, change cannot take place since the thinking brain will not be fully operational and you will be engaged in a defense mechanism. The feeling brain rules!

What has all this to do with mental health?

Behaviors reflect the quality of one’s mental health and basic beliefs determine most behaviors. The greater the consistency between your basic beliefs and the four inbornintentions, the stronger your mental health will be. For instance, it is mentally healthy to have a positive worldview (inbornintention: love), have a strong work ethic (inbornintention: sense of accomplishment), make wise decisions (inbornintention: freedom of choice) and, most importantly, have a positive self-concept (inbornintention: human dignity).

For further information

For a better understanding of some terms used in this post, such as “thinking brain,” “feeling brain,” “inbornintentions,” “basic beliefs,” “human dignity,” “sense of accomplishment,” “anxiety,” or “defense mechanisms,” see the Glossary. Alternatively, find a copy of the paperback Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, available on Amazon.com or the eBook on Kindle, either accessible by clicking on the link on the right of this post.

Resources

Book: Pathways to Mental Health and Anxiety Management, by Frank Hannah.
Paperback
Kindle eBook

YouTube channel: Choose Mental Health

Facebook: Choose Mental Health

Posted in Basic Beliefs | Leave a comment