WellBeing

Building emotional and psychological wellness

When 5472 Danish citizens were asked to rank the severity of their own health problems, they rated depression and breathing problems the most unendurable.

Unfortunately, depression and anxiety are increasing global issues. In Australia one in five of us was suffering a mental or behavioural health issue in the National Health Survey of 2017–18, compared to 17.5 per cent in 2014–15. Those struggling with both anxiety and depression rose 5 per cent in the same period. And, tragically, suicide claims the lives of more Australians between the ages of 15 and 44 than any other cause. The societal and economic dislocations associated with COVID-19 have only exacerbated the challenges.

Hearteningly, many also transcend and heal from afflictions of the mind, heart and soul. Todd Kashdan, a professor of psychology at George Mason University, Virginia, says this ability for many to thrive after mental health problems remains a blind spot in psychiatry. “Depression is sometimes far from being an inevitable death sentence. It can be a way station. In a surprisingly large number of cases, people move from the ashes of despair to flourishing,” he wrote in Psychology Today.

“Depression is sometimes far from being an inevitable death sentence. It can be a way station. In a surprisingly large number of cases, people move from the ashes of despair to flourishing.”

What is psychological and emotional wellbeing?

Leading American psychiatrist Dr Mark Goulston, author of Get Out Of Your Own Way and Just Listen, defines psychological wellbeing as being able to handle any upset, disappointment or adversity that the world throws at you without doing something destructive to yourself or the world. The most psychologically healthy tolerate exceptional levels of frustration, upset and disappointment, Goulston explains, because of an ability to look at a situation from another person’s point of view. But our psychological wellbeing is in a constant state of flux.

Goulston prefers the terms “stress management” or “psychological wellbeing” to “mental” health. The latter has become an alienating label, scares people,” he says. “Because of the stigma, it triggers avoidance, and as a result it [our health] doesn’t get addressed.”

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