To counter balance our deteriorating emotional health, it is essential the stigma attached to counselling is removed and an awareness created about the need and availability of help.
Statistics show that the rate of psychological disturbances leading to suicide, homicide, marital breakdown, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc. is increasing at an alarming rate all over the world. It would seem that as the material comforts of life are increasing due to the scientific explosion, mental health is deteriorating. Mental Health is a term used to describe either a level of cognitive or emotional well being or an absence of a mental disorder. Mental health may include an individual’s ability to enjoy life and procure a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Mental health is the capacity to express our emotions and adapt to a range of demands.
Mental health problems are found in people of all ages, regions, countries and societies. 1 in 4 adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any one year, and one in six experiences this at any given time.
Although mental disorders are widespread, serious cases are concentrated among a relatively small proportion of people who experience more than one mental health problem (this is known as ‘co-morbidity’). It is estimated that approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem.
With timely intervention and proper care, at least 60 per cent of these disturbed people can recover completely and at least 70 per cent can avoid chronic illness and disability. A large number of people can be helped merely by listening empathetically and actively, thus establishing a caring human interaction, which makes the disturbed individual open to exploring, understanding and changing something in himself to solve his problem. This is called personal counselling. The mental health charity Mind interviewed people who had been diagnosed with various types of mental illness including depression, schizophrenia, manic depression and post traumatic stress disorder. They found more than half (57%) of the 970 people questioned said they felt they had ‘recovered’, or were coping with some kind of support.
Personal counselling has never been more needed than it is today. There is an urgent need to rescue toxic and failing relationships, relationships within families, between neighbours, between communities and even countries, before we self-destruct as a human race.
Obsessed with, and doing so much to increase the life span of human beings, have we ever given thought to the quality of life we lead? Physical well-being and health is given the highest priority with newer drugs flooding the market everyday. Has anyone ever thought as much about emotional well-being and mental health?
There is an invisible stigma attached to counselling, wherein general practitioners hesitate to refer cases for personal counselling, fearing that the patients may take offence. Denial of the need for therapy only compounds the problem, for if there is anything worse than having a problem, it is denying that you have one. Timely intervention of counselling can avert many a disaster.
If, during these times of stress, competition and low frustration tolerance, the disturbed individual is able to find immediate help in his family, social or work environment in the form of an empathetic and caring listener who will give him a ‘hand up’, many disasters can be averted. He can then subsequently be referred to a professional counsellor.
There is an urgent need for establishing meaningful human interaction between people. The fast-paced, highly competitive urban world, the break up of the joint family system, increase in the number of women working outside the house, single child norm, etc., means that a friend in need is even more required today. If we can increase the number of such ‘friends’ who ‘dare to care’, the rate of disturbed individuals becoming chronically-ill and disabled will most definitely reduce.
There are several misconceptions about the nature and intention of counselling and therapy. Many people believe that the purpose of therapy is to talk about the person’s problems, rather than devising active means of solving those problems. It is not talk that is important, but action. For successful therapy, certain essential conditions need to be fulfilled: Identifying something as a problem: Many people who are unfulfilled, and even seem to suffer, are in denial about having a problem.
Accepting the possibility that something can be done: Many people admit having problems but feel that that’s the way they are and that nothing can be done about it. Expressing a desire to change: Many people say they have problems, even acknowledge the possibility of change, but seem uninterested in changing.
A willingness to make an effort and do whatever it takes to change: This is crucial in distinguishing people who change from those who don’t, and this is what finally determines the success or failure of counselling. Thus the objective of counselling and therapy is to get the client to understand that the locus of control is in him, to take responsibility for his contribution to his situation, and to thus get him to fully participate in his own healing and work towards a harmonious life.
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