Let's take mental health more seriously

Health & Fitness
Source: Getty Images/Jasmin Merdan

It seems that a week doesn't go by without yet another high-profile suicide that shocks the world. These are people who by all appearances were successful and achieved all that they wanted, yet they chose to take the plunge towards death prematurely.

At the outset, I'm going to say that I'm not a mental health practitioner or an expert in suicide or depression. So if you're suffering from suicidal thoughts or going through depression, please seek professional help today!

The reason for this article is that, whenever cases of suicide pop up in social media, I notice people dismissing them in two ways:

  1. Thinking it'll never impact them or their loved ones
  2. Believing that it's merely a matter of faith and that if you have faith then you would not have depression of suicidal thoughts.

These assumptions grossly underestimate the challenge of maintaining mental well-being in our modern society.

We live in a knowledge economy where 80 per cent of our activity is mental. Whether we're processing emails, managing projects or even trying to coordinate soccer practice for our kids with our spouse, we're relying more heavily on our brains (and, by extension, on technology) to help us keep our lives together and be productive citizens of the world.

What happens when those mental abilities get stretched beyond their capacity, through stress or through traumatic events? Or what happens when we are afflicted with a mental disease because of our genes or our environment?

Replace the word 'mental' with the word 'physical' in the above paragraph, and you'll know what to do: rest, and go see a doctor. However, we hesitate to make that decision when we were trying to figure out how to take care of our mental health.

I understand. Mental health is often a taboo topic. Anyone who sees a psychiatrist or mental health practitioner will be viewed with suspicion or pity by family members and colleague. Many would rather say that they are going to get a colonoscopy than admit that they are going through mental therapy.

So here's what can we do to take mental health more seriously:

1. Make it part of your healthy living blueprint: just like you take care of your body with food, sleep, and exercise, ask yourself how you are going to take care of your brain and your mental health.

2. Regularly see a mental health practitioner even when you don't have problems. Having a relationship with a mental health practitioner during the good times will make it easier for you to reach out to them during the bad.

3. Tap into the mindsets, values and rituals that faith offers to help you keep your mental health in check. Things like trusting God, believing in His mercy, having compassion, praying, fasting, and going on pilgrimages are all powerful tools in your mental health hygiene toolbox.

Let's start taking our mental health seriously, not just for ourselves, but for our family and children as well. And let's aim to reach out, to make sure that our loved ones know we are there for them when they are depressed, so that none of them ever reaches the point when they even think about taking their life.

Mohammed Faris is an international coach, author, and speaker who helps executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs rebalance their lives spiritually, physically and socially to achieve peak performance and live meaningful lives. He’s the founder of ProductiveMuslim.com and author of The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity.

(Writing by Mohammed Faris; Editing by Seban Scaria)

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