And Covid19 has made it obvious.
Many of us grew up believing that ‘mental health’ was something that concerned “the others”: People suffering from psychological disorders such as phobias, depression, schizophrenia or bi-polar. We thought mental health issues required long therapies behind closed doors, in a clinic for psychiatry, where other people who behaved in similarly weird ways got treatment.
Not long ago, mental health was either thoughtlessly made fun of, stigmatized or just kept in the shadows. And no one really seemed to know what it was.
Thanks to awareness campaigns, celebrities coming out about their struggles and the catalyzing effect of Covid19, the conversation around mental health has been changing rapidly. We’re now facing the most severe public health crisis of a generation and it concerns us all.
The Mental Health Continuum
Today we know that mental health is not a binary state and means more than the absence of illness. Just as we all have physical health, regardless of whether it is poor, improving or thriving, our mental health similarly moves along a continuum between a zone of severe illness (very poor mental health) and excellent mental wellbeing. The most important insight though, is that all 8 billion people — you, me all of us — are on that continuum. Day by day.
Am I Mentally Healthy?
A mentally healthy person is defined by the WHO as “in a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. We all have those days when we feel at our best. But that’s likely not every day and certainly not throughout a pandemic. With every aspect of our lives, we keep moving back and forth on the continuum.
What Does It Mean For Me?
In a healthy state, we may experience normal mood swings. We will have good and bad days, and our perceived mental fitness will fluctuate. But being sad over a longer period of time until reaching a state of pervasive sadness or excessive anxiety indicates that our mental health is declining. Substantial physical changes such as restless sleep and a loss of appetite or changes in thinking and attitude, such as intrusive thoughts or displaced sarcasm can evolve silently. Our behaviour patterns and our performance such as an increasing avoidance of situations, and addictive habits such as a troubled substance use, can feed into each other and move us from good to poor mental health.
The positive news is, it also works the other way around. We can work our way from an injured mental health state into a flourishing one, where we sleep well, take things in stride and enjoy a socially active life.
The question therefore is: Do we notice when we go from thriving to surviving, from struggling to crisis? How do we know whether our countermeasures work and our efforts to change a behaviour have the desired effect on our mental health state?
At Earkick, we are tackling this problem by measuring mental health using physiological biomarkers and performing sentiment analysis. Tracking your mental health state should be as easy as keeping track of your weight.
Be part of our mission and get in touch.
At Earkick we are building a free anxiety tracker to follow our great mission in order to make the wold a less anxious place.