The importance of counselling
September is recognised as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and reports from the Ministry of Health reveal that there has been an increase in the number of suicide cases over the last two years.
Research has also shown that there is a correlation between poor mental health and suicidal thoughts. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to address mental health weaknesses in order to reduce incidences of suicide.
Mentally ill people like myself are acutely aware that counselling is an effective tool to improve and maintain good mental health. When we get a physical wound or develop a physical illness that cause us pain and discomfort we go to the doctor for treatment; however, when we experience mental or emotional trauma that cause us pain we refuse to see a counsellor or psychologist. We fail to accept that our mental health is just as important as our physical health.
There are cultural norms that help to perpetuate poor mental health, especially among men. Men don’t normally talk about personal problems that have to do with emotions, they don’t openly show emotions, such as crying and hugging, in public. A lot of men view counselling and seeking help with their emotions as a sign of weakness.
Many men believe that they should “tough out” their emotional pain and resort to self-harming behaviour, such as drinking, gambling, and smoking, in order to release the pain. However, such actions only escalate the problems with which they are faced. If these emotions are not addressed, thoughts of suicide may emerge.
People need to be taught the importance of counselling and helped to understand that mental health is real health. Too much pressure and stress at work, school, in relationships, within the family and business can impact mental health in the same way too much salt or sugar in our daily diet can impact our physical health.
We should make routine visits to a trained counsellor at least once a year and we should definitely seek counselling when we are going through bereavement, divorce/separation, relationship complications, loss of job, business failure, among other personal issues. It is a fool’s errand to believe we can solve all our personal problems by ourselves.
As Suicide Prevention Awareness Month draws closer to an end, I just wish to leave a few simple yet important tips that I know have been proven to facilitate good mental health. One, we should talk through trauma and negative life experiences. Talk therapy works! Allowing our feelings of pain to bottle up inside will only cause us to eventually explode. Two, stay away from drugs and alcohol consumption. Sobriety is needed to achieve good mental health. Three, practise relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, listening to music, or gardening. Four, practise journaling so that you can express your feelings in writing.
Accept that counselling is a professional way of treating our emotional pains and personal struggles. Seeking counselling is a form of self-empowerment and individual upliftment. Let us remind ourselves that mental health is real health and there is no good health without good mental health. Counselling can save us from self-harming behaviour, including suicide; therefore, let us embrace the habit of seeking counselling.
The word is always love!
Andre’ A O Wellington
Mental health patient and advocate