We need a society that truly cares about people

By Ann Walsh - Psychologist and Psychotherapist, and Green Party spokesperson on Mental Health.

Published 25/06/2016 | 00:00

By Ann WalshPsychologist and Psychotherapist, and Green Party spokesperson on Mental Health.
By Ann WalshPsychologist and Psychotherapist, and Green Party spokesperson on Mental Health.

While it is imperative that we have effective and accessible services for those of us who are suffering psychologically, particularly at times of acute crisis, it is equally important that we create and nurture environments where we can avoid the need for such services as much as possible.

We need to recognise when people are traumatised by life events, deal efficiently and effectively with these traumas, and prevent as much as possible, people ending up being caught unnecessarily in a system that does not always suit them and in some cases delays recovery or labels them unnecessarily. Psychological well being, along the continuum from stress to psychosis, is dependent on how well our psychological needs are being met by the environment we are in.

How our psychological needs are met will determine our level of mental health, when our environment is not supporting these needs we become psychologically unwell. The quality of our environments both physically and psychologically will determine how well we thrive as human beings and the more individualistic and capitalist a culture becomes, the more mental health issues arise.

We all need to feel safe, this can be physically, psychologically, financially; we need to feel we have some level of control and choice in our lives; and we need to have the opportunity to give and received attention to and from other people in equal measure.

We all need to feel a sense of community and belonging, where we are connected to other people, social isolation is a huge contributing factor to mental health difficulties, we also need to be connected to at least one other person who truly understands us, does not judge and whom we trust implicitly.

While it is important to have social connection it is also important at times to have privacy, a break from other people and technology, time to reflect and discern what are our thoughts and ideas and what are simply in our minds because of who we listen to or what we read. It is important that each of us has a sense of competence and achievement, that we are able to cope with lifes' demands and that we do not beat ourselves up when things go wrong, that we value ourselves as well as feeling valued by others.

Finally a need that so many people in distress seem to lack in today's world is a sense of meaning and purpose, that our life is worthwhile, that we are connected to ideas or causes bigger than ourselves. This meaning can come from our careers, sport, social and environmental endeavours, having a strong religious or political belief, in fact anything that drives us forward, enthuses and engages us and makes us feel that life is worthwhile.

When the environment we are in is not meeting these needs, whether it is society at large, our work place, or any other organisation that impacts on our lives, we can become distressed if we do not have the coping mechanisms to deal with such environments. Our capacity to cope is hugely influenced by how we perceive the world, and how we have learned to deal with crisis.

By creating environments where these needs are being met, where we nurture resilience and teach people how to use their own innate psychological resources we can reduce an incredible amount of human suffering. Nurturing a society that truly cares about its citizens and understands how to create an environment where we can all thrive should be our priority, and we can pass this gift on to future generations.

Wexford People

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