Three things i’ve learnt about overcoming mental health issues



Ben Hervey-Murray shares what he’s learnt about overcoming mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, phobias and disorders since completing his training to be a licensed Thrive Consultant.



#1 EVERYONE CAN IMPROVE THEIR MENTAL HEALTH!


As my understanding of mental health widens, it’s surprising how many unhelpful behaviours are common amongst people who I previously considered to be beacons of positivity and happiness.

For example, I’ve noted that perspective and catastrophizing are two ways in which often very mental healthy people sabotage their day. A recent conversation really hit home just how this works without people realising.

Some friends had attempted to reach one of the charming Channel Islands off the coast of California but unusually poor weather necessitated an immediate return journey to the mainland as all the crossings later that day were cancelled.

The rough weather had caused lots of people on the boat to be sick and, generally, it wasn’t that fun. However, they saw some dolphins, had a great view of the harbour, reached their destination, saw some amazing scenery and they weren’t sick themselves.

I suggested they view it as a rather expensive dolphin watching cruise – choosing the best perspective possible given the situation – but my friends took a very dim view of their day and spent some time brooding over the negative aspects. Was this helpful for them in terms of enjoying their day and having a happy evening? Obviously not.

Since completing The Thrive Programme and, more recently, branching out from working for Thrive HQ to train and work as a Thrive Consultant here in Southern California, I’ve found my perspective on days like my friends experienced to be entirely different.

I am able, very quickly, to identify how and why negative thoughts like these begin to impact my mental health and replace with them with an attitude or though that does help me. I’m also able to do the same with clients.


This is one of the key factors in taking control of mental health – identifying how, when and why something like a poor perspective, brooding or any other unhelpful thinking style or emotion can feed anxiety and depression. And when you understand this, it’s possible to take affirmative action.


#2 VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW HOW TO MANAGE MENTAL HEALTH


Several recent conversations have shocked and interested me in equal measure. All have been with people with some form of psychological training or qualification – degrees, masters, institutional experience – and all have suffered from some form of mental ill health.

However, despite years of studying and learning about the various aspects of psychology, none of them knew how to proactively manage their mental health so they weren’t hampered by issues such as depression and anxiety for years.

These are extremely learned and intelligent people – honestly, some of the most pleasant and interesting individuals you could hope to meet – but even they were helpless when faced with poor mental health.

This strongly suggests that, whilst we might be great at teaching people the fascinating theories, history and practice of psychology, we are extremely poor at teaching people how to overcome mental health problems. Even people with extremely high levels of knowledge in relation to this subject don’t have the tools in their locker to help themselves.


I found this surprising but a pattern soon emerged – deep psychological knowledge, whilst useful in an academic setting, does not equal the ability or knowledge to overcome issues such as depression, anxiety or phobias. This requires understanding mental health in the practical, non-medicalised way that The Thrive Programme espouses.

#3 STUCK WITH THIS FOR LIFE? NO,YOU’RE NOT…


This is strongly related to the second point – the idea that we’re stuck with poor mental health for life due to a brain chemistry problem or ‘broken’ mind. In most cases of mental illness, this isn’t true, but this idea is widespread and I met people on a weekly basis who are certain that they are stuck with the same imbalance for life.

This is unhelpful for several reasons, mainly because it isn’t true. Medical professionals were sold the brain chemistry lie in the 90s and it’s stuck around ever since. This is understandable when you realise that it ties in nicely with the rise in prescriptions for equally unhelpful SSRI antidepressant medication and the concept explains (incorrectly for most) why they are experiencing anxiety or depression. It make sense with a limited understanding of the subject.


However, as I demonstrated by overcoming years of clinical depression and poor mental health in just a few weeks, most people aren’t suffering from low serotonin levels (fun fact: there is no real test for measuring serotonin levels in the brain) but rather a collection of unhelpful thoughts, emotions, behaviours and beliefs that manifest themselves in the form of depression, anxiety, phobias and disorders.

The best way to overcome this, is to educate yourself about how mental health really works and how to make it work for you, not against.


The feeling of being in charge of your own mind is incredibly empowering and I would urge anyone struggling with poor mental health – that overall feeling of being out of control – to take get in contact with your nearest Thrive Consultant today. It will change your life, as it did for me.



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