What Being a Therapist Has Taught Me About Mental Health in 2017
First held in 1992, today marks the 25th annual World Mental Health Day. The landscape of mental health difficulties and treatments has changed over these years. Rates of anxiety and depression are seemingly on the rise, however people are also - thankfully - better equipped to name their feelings, to discuss their problems, and to accept that they are struggling with poor mental health and look for the support they need.
With NHS services stretched, the numbers of people engaging in private therapy in a bid to address their mental health difficulties, to explore issues around identity and purpose, to work through big life changes, is rising.
We spoke to some of the welldoing.org community about what being a therapist or counsellor has taught them about mental health in 2017.
"As a therapist, what I've seen a lot of this year regarding mental health is increasing levels of anxiety. This has been across gender, age and social background; people are struggling with feeling that the world is an unsafe and uncertain place. We like certainties, and it feels like there aren't many certainties in the world right now.
The decrease in mental health funding has meant an increase in people seeking help through private therapy and I've also seen a lot more students looking for help with mental health issues as they simply can't get enough help from stretched student services."
"Working with clients, I'm constantly reminded how important it is for an individual to have a sense of what they want their lives to be and to be able to follow that. I encounter people who have spent so much time trying to please people around them that not only do they not know how to say what they want, they've actually lost touch with what that might be. It's like an important part of the person has gone out and needs to be rekindled."
"Being a therapist has taught me about my own experience. I have learned that connecting with someone I feel safe with, through my vulnerabilities, is crucial. It supports a sense of intimacy and lessens loneliness. The old ideas I've taken in as a child – that being seen as vulnerable – is not okay get challenged by the supportive response I receive to my sharing."
"Firstly, as therapists we must be always learning. I started a post-grad diploma in gender, sexual and relationship diversity this year, and it really brought home to me how there is always more to learn. 2017 has also reinforced for me that its not enough to say "it's good to talk" or variations on it. There needs to be people willing and able to listen. I think currently when it comes to mental health we aren't getting that balance right."
"What has being a therapist has taught me about mental health in 2017? Simply, the importance of meeting our own needs before we can meet the needs of others. Embracing my own self-care journey at the start of 2017 I am learning to pay attention to what needs I can meet for myself in order to feel safe and less threatened in these uncertain times.
For me that has meant adopting a healthier regime which has both nurtured and nourished me emotionally and physically. This has given me a sense of choice, control and empowerment at a time when so many of us - clients and therapists alike - feel disenfranchised, disconnected and dismissed.
In choosing to embrace both my emotional and physical care I not only feel a greater sense of connectedness to myself but also to others. In doing so I have learnt I can create and sustain my own safety and am now using this knowledge and experience to empower clients to meet their own needs and feel safe for themselves."
"In the competitive world of 2017, environmental factors such as people's careers, their relationships, and the wider global political and economic climate, have a profound impact on mental health and wellbeing.
In my experience as a therapist, people today understand that by addressing, rather than avoiding, their concerns and problems they can reduce the impact of, for example, low mood, worry and destructive emotions. It seems to me that there has been a paradigm shift in terms of the way that people consider their mental health.
Although there is still a way to go, the stigma around mental health has reduced, allowing people to more freely think and talk about how they feel about their experiences, and to actively do something to improve the way they feel. Although I often work with people who are in crisis, many of my clients come to therapy because they simply want to make sense of their lives, and find meaning and purpose.
This suggests that mental health is increasingly viewed as a crucial aspect of life that needs care, attention and development in the same way that we focus on our physical wellbeing."