I was reading something the other day that said ‘if your knee kept hurting, you wouldn’t wait until it broke in half or until you couldn’t walk’ so why is mental health any different?
Basically the dialogue entailed having a ‘mental health MOT’ before anything severe could happen.
I see this with my youngest daughter. She was struggling for several months. I tried to speak to the school about my concerns, but they just didn’t think they were ‘bad enough’ to get support. The school basically told me she didn’t meet the threshold to get support within her school.
So, her anxiety kept getting worse and worse until she could no longer take it and had to be pulled out of school. It wasn’t until then that the school and local authorities such as the CAMHS NHS took her symptoms seriously. Now, as a psychologist I think the system shockingly failed my daughter. It has also failed many children and families who need support. I guess that is why seeking private psychologists are helpful. However, what if that private psychologist is your mother? I really took a step back and reflected. I took a breath. I trusted my intuition. And, I knew deep down that I had to change her environment. After all, I am not only her mother, but I am an expert too. I had more experience than that of her previous school and they were not validating any of my concerns.
My youngest then found a new supportive school. A school that supports her learning needs. A school that validates my concerns and understands that often females can mask certain symptoms such as ADHD, dyslexia and other neurodiverse conditions. It has been a great relief to me having the support of such a switched on school. We are lucky and blessed that this school is up to date with mental health and learning abilities of students. With this experience I have learned so much, we all have and continue to grow and learn. We take one day at a time. And, because of this experience I can share with other families and support them through their difficult times when they have not felt validated or supported by people they trusted.
This is where the mental health MOT comes to play.
Shouldn’t we all from time to time ‘check in’ to see how we are feeling? Maybe we feel fine all of the time (I remember those days), but as we get older life gets more difficult- especially if you have kids.
Shouldn’t we be teaching children how to recognise their feelings? healthy ways to manage feelings such as anxiety or feeling low? Why do we ignore these things in school? personally? in life?
I do understand that not everyone will have emotional intelligence or even be able to recognise different feelings within themself; however, what if you made an appointment with a therapist, psychologist or counsellor to have a mental health MOT?
Your mental health MOT would include: making sure you are happy with all aspects of your life, making sure you have a good work, life, family balance. Basically, a mental health MOT would be very similar to having your car MOT’d. It would make sure that you don’t end up getting a flat tire, or breaking down in the middle of a busy road (or life in this analogy) and so that you would continue to safely run.
I believe we need to apply this concept towards our mental health. Firstly, it is nice to talk. It is good to talk. It is healthy to talk. When we keep unwanted thoughts inside our mind, or ruminate, it can manifest into depression or anger. If people spoke more about anxiety and things that troubled them then perhaps more people would not suffer from severe mental health issues.
We are faced with so much pressure in life, school, work, social media, technology… and pressure we put on ourselves to keep up with the world… why don’t we start looking at things that can reduce these pressures? Things such as self-care, self-love and relaxing and meditating. And, most importantly scheduling a mental health MOT.
Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.
follow her on FB and IG: @getwellbrighton