Managing your mental health and wellbeing — Where are you on the continuum?
Working as a manager at any level can be stressful. Not only are you accountable for your own work but for the work of others too.
And in today’s world things have got busier. Though we have great technology which can make us more efficient, it has only added to our workload because now people can contact you 24/7.
It’s no surprise that despite our advancement people at work are more stressed than ever.
On that note, it makes sense that we become mindful of our mental health and well-being. In this first of three articles on the subject, I want to explore the mental health continuum and ask you an honest question, where are you on the continuum?
But first, let’s start with a key question, what is mental health?
According to mental health.gov,
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Summarily, this means that to function properly, we need good mental health, and anything that impacts our mental health adversely will affect our ability to be functional in our day-to-day activities.
Let’s explore the mental health continuum.
Previously, it was believed that our mental health and well-being could be described by a continuum with two ends. On one end is good mental health and on the other end is poor mental health. The current state of our mental health would place us anywhere on the continuum between these two ends. So, if you have relatively good mental health you would be closer to the good mental health end and if your mental health is poorer you would be closer to the poorer end.
But describing the state of our mental health is not as simple as two points at the end of a straight line. Our mental health is much more complex than a straight line with two opposite ends.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), an organization that provides mental health first aid training for use in the workplace defined a much more sensible continuum that helps us to better describe the reality of people’s mental health.
They believe that our mental health at any point in time can be described by the combination of two axes which creates four quadrants. Each quadrant is a state of mental health and well-being.
The horizontal axis has two ends. The left end is ‘No mental health illness diagnosis’ and the right end is ‘Mental health illness diagnosis.
The vertical axis also has two ends. The top end is labeled as ‘good well-being’ and the bottom end is ‘poor well-being’. When you superimpose both axes on each other you get four quadrants that provide a closer state of what our mental health and well-being may look like at any point in time.
Four mental health and well-being states come out of this continuum.
- Good well-being and no mental health diagnosis: People in this quadrant have good well-being which includes things such as eating well, sleeping well, having little or no stress, and not drinking too much. They also don’t have a diagnosed mental health illness such as depression, severe anxiety, or bipolar. This is where we all want to be.
- Poor well-being and no mental health diagnosis: People in this quadrant don’t have a diagnosed mental health illness but they have poor well-being. There may be situations in their lives that make them unhappy and stressed such as money issues, relationship breakdown, problems at work, physical illness, or the like. Their poor well-being may manifest through unhealthy eating, drinking too much alcohol, not sleeping, anger irritability, and so on. If this continues for too long it can become so serious to the point of triggering a diagnosed mental health illness in a person. People here may also struggle with day-to-day living.
- Poor well-being and mental health diagnosis: People here have been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar. They also have poor well-being. They may be on medication, receiving therapy, or receiving support in a care facility. Life for people here may not be very functional
- Good well-being and mental health diagnosis: While the people here have a diagnosis of a mental health illness, they have good well-being. Their lives are functional and they have learned to manage their mental illness well to the point of being able to live productive lives. Despite the presence of a mental health illness they still are able to live well. People in this quadrant are proof that having a mental health illness is not a death sentence.
Now, that we’ve looked at the four-quadrant on the mental health continuum, the question for you is…
…where are you on the continuum?
We all want to be in the top-right quadrant(good well-being and no mental health diagnosis). Or the top-left quadrant(good well-being and mental health diagnosis) if you have a mental health diagnosis. But we have got to be honest with ourselves because a lot of us may be in the bottom-right quadrant (poor well-being and no mental diagnosis).
Our well-being may be so poor that we are struggling with daily living. If that is you then you can’t ignore it. You have got to do something about it.
In the next article on this subject, I will ask you another question which is, what’s in your stress bucket?