Maintaining Mental Health: The Importance Of Regular Mental Health “Check-Ups”

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Everyone is familiar with the concept of a periodic medical check-up. We know this helps preserve our physical health and well-being so we can enjoy a long and healthy life. However, when it comes to mental health many of us do not consider seeing a doctor or professional about our mental health unless we, or a loved one, feel there is something drastically wrong.

As a society, we take our mental health for granted,” says Professor Barbara Sahakian, a leading UK neuroscientist. “But just like our bodies, it is important to keep our brains fit…Just as joggers check their pulse rate, we should encourage individuals to regularly keep an eye on the state of their mental health. Often people wait too long to seek help, making their condition more difficult to treat.”¹

Recently, the World Health Organization suggested the use of mobile health (mHealth) technology improves access to psychological treatment.² This technology is suitable for repeated sampling of subjects’ current behaviors and experiences in real time and in natural environments. A particularly promising approach to the challenge of early identification of mental illness is regular (e.g. daily, weekly) check-ins where the individual learns to keep track of his or her symptoms and behaviour over time. Based on the individuals’ real-time information, tailored feedback can be provided to support and reinforce positive changes in mental health, and to counteract negative developments.

A Mental health check-up is like a physical: It helps evaluate risk

Over the past few years, there has been a strong demand to address stress, resilience, and mental health illness as it impacts the employers’ bottom line. The financial cost associated with mental illness to the Canadian economy is staggering at an estimated $51 billion per year from health care expenditures and lost productivity.² In fact, 56 percent of Canadian employers consider the continuous rise in employee mental health claims to be a top concern.³

With most adults spending so many of their waking hours at work, the workplace environment is now acknowledged as a key determinant of health and the perfect forum for raising awareness about the importance of regular mental health check-ups, and administering those check-ups.

Mental health is not static

Mental health and mental illness are not static — they change over time depending on a variety of factors. In this way, a person’s mental health varies from day-to-day — sometimes a little; sometimes a lot.

Some of the factors that influence mental health include:

  • the experience of personal and workplace stress;
  • lifestyle and health behaviours;
  • traumatic experiences;
  • genetics;
  • nutrition;
  • relationship problems;
  • significant life changes (e.g. moving, losing a job or beginning a new one, the birth of a child); and
  • economic hardships.

Since life has its ups and downs, and any of these can impact mental health in the short- and longer-term, it’s important to continually pay attention to how we are feeling, thinking, and behaving as a consequence of these events. This is where regular mental health check-ups are of most value.

Check-in to Check-up

A mental health check-up is a proactive step where a person intentionally focuses their attention to their mental health. In other words, you “check-in” to see if you are experiencing any change in feeling, thinking, or behaving. Over time, checking-in with yourself reveals patterns of highs and lows. And with this knowledge, it’s possible to identify the circumstances that result in the highs (feeling great, thinking optimistically, being productive) and also identify the triggers of the lows (feeling sad, having no energy, thinking pesimistically).

About Avail

Using data from regularly repeated well-being “check-ins”, Avail’s scientifically-driven self-monitoring behavioural analysis engine provides users with personalized stress and resilience profile accompanied by insights that identify their realized and unrealized mental strengths and behavioural health. In turn, our Avail Care Navigator provides users fast and easy access to a network of healthcare and well-being professionals, including therapists and counselors, financial advisers, legal counsel, nutritionists, personal trainers, and more.

References

  1. Quoted from the article Mental Health Check-Ups As Important As Annual Physicals. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/02/18/mental-health-checkups-as-important-as-annual-physicals/51727.html
  2. mHealth: New Horizons for Health Through Mobile Technologies. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/goe/publications/goe_mhealth_web.pdf
  3. C.S. Dewa, et al., “A new population-based measure of the burden of mental illness in Canada.” Chronic Diseases in Canada. 28(3)(2008): 92.