When we talk about mental health it is starting to have different and more positive connotations than it did a few years back. But the truth is there is still a "poverty mentality" when it comes to how we engage with it in our own lives. Which is why I am choosing to discuss mental wealth - because our association with that word is a little more positive - we stop and reflect.
When people think of health, they tend to think of well-being. When they think of mental health, people often think of mental illness - because it is most often mentioned in the context of someone suffering with a "disorder".
I am all for breaking pre-conceptions around stigma, but when associations have been formed on such a culture-wide level we often decide to change our language - so I am.
Now this is not about changing your mindset to make more money (although that would be brilliant!) - it's about the perspective of contributing to our own lives in the way we would a bank account.
And like a bank account, sometimes funds can be low, or we can adopt strategies that might grow our mental wealth.
Every day I see more posts about how we can all take control of our destinies, lift ourselves up if we just change our mindsets, make more money because we follow a particular system. And that is great. But what about well-being?
Sometimes it's a matter of taking the first steps. Sometimes it's knowing what direction you want to go in. And after 15 years of working in and around mental health what would I say? Take those steps in the right direction. Do your research. Find people and professionals that align with your values.
It might be that you find a great community that supports you and makes you feel great. You might also then want to talk to a professional as even improvements can cause stress in our lives and with significant others.
In Australia you can go to your GP. Make sure to book a double appointment and let the receptionist know you want to get a mental health care plan - without a double you may need to re-book your appointment and I know many people, having found the courage to face this appointment are dis-heartened when they find they need to come back in order to take the next steps of seeing a mental health professional. So get that double - straight up.
Also, this is your life, your mind, your heart. Would you entrust it to just anyone or would you want to know who you might be going to and what their approach is likely to be? These days it is often more about giving you strategies to help you cope with your day-to-day life - because the tough stuff comes up when you attempt to do life.
Many people are slightly terrified by the prospect that they might be forced to talk about their deeply-held trauma, or that because there is something different going on in their lives, that they may be judged.
The reality is, there are some issues that a psychologist, mental health nurse, mental health accredited social worker or occupational therapist (yes, there are many types of mental health professionals - and most are subsidised by medicare) may have to do mandatory reporting on, but they will share this information with you when you first attend - when they describe their confidentiality agreement with you.
On the whole, most professionals are dealing with a variety of "interesting" issues. And quite often, the only way to face our fears is to share them. So know that while you may feel self-conscious, this is something mental health professionals deal with on a daily basis.
My suggestion is that if your mental health professional doesn't give you information about confidentiality, you have every right to ask what their policies are and if need be, go back to your GP and ask for another referral to someone you feel may be more suited to your needs.
Be your own advocate and don't let anyone put you off getting what you need - for your sake and for those around you. Depending on your financial circumstances there are many different options around paying and some sessions, in Australia, will be covered by medicare or have a small "gap" (between their fee and what the medicare benefit will cover).
Now all of this is assuming we are in a place to do this stuff for ourselves - and sometimes we reach a place where that just isn't possible. Like other difficulties in life, it can be good to have a plan in place, to discuss what we want to happen, before we reach that point.
Dealing with our emotional well-being can be tough, but if we focus on getting the right team around us to build our emotional wealth? The possibilities start to change - notice sporting people often see someone weekly, if not fortnightly to ensure their performance is at it's peak? If it is that critical to performance, then perhaps it's something we ought to contemplate.
In Australia, you can get 6 sessions with a medicare rebate as part of your mental health care plan. This can be extended if necessary. This is your life. So take your mental wealth more seriously than your car, your job, and even your finances. And if people around you are making you uncomfortable about it - find the ways to make it a strategy that can work for both of you - ways to get on the same page.
"When writing the story of your life, don't let anyone else hold the pen." This is a quote from an international platform Better Health - they do charge, but if you let them know a little of what you are going through you will get counsellors (locally and internationally) letting you know they are available.
Otherwise, remember, Googling can be really effective to get you started.
All of this, and a whole lot of other really important stuff around neurology, well-being, and trauma, is why I am working with an awesome team to create Superhero Me and if you would like to join us on this (for free) you might want to check out my previous blog. We want to make this something really worthwhile to people so if you have ideas about what you think it should cover, let us know.