Fight the Stigma

Social stigma for mental health is defined as fear that others will see a personal negatively if he/she seeks help for problem. Stigma has also been identified as the most significant factor that prevents individuals from seeking mental health. Research has shown that if a person is identified as a former mental health patient, social rejection towards him is greater, even though he was never a mental health patient.

In our society we treat physical and mental health differently. Heart, diabetes or car accident patients are dealt with differently than those with mental health. Overtime mental illness has come to be associated with weak character or dangerous person.

People who suffer from mental disorder are stigmatized but those who seek help for the mental condition are often stigmatized more. This has led to people who suspect they might be mentally ill to be unwilling to seek help and families delaying help because of fear of shame.


Why do we have distorted view of mental illness?

Not that I am saying media is absolute perpetuator of this stigma, but media has done a lot to sustain this negative view of mental illness. From T.V. characters and violent criminals, mental illness often only gets coverage when associated with violence. This creates a distorted image of mental illness in our society.


What can we do?

The greatest weapon in the battle against stigma is knowledge. Learning the facts about mental illness dispels the myth that mental illness is some kind of personal failing and instead is a real, medical illness with treatment and recovery possibilities. Mental illness is often referred to as “invisible illness” because you never know if a person is suffering from a mental illness or not. Only way to find out is if they tell you, so do not assume.

Animals Help Fight Depression.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps relay information in various parts of brain such as areas related to mood sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory, learning, and some social behavior.

Researchers have found that low serotonin levels are related to depression. And this could be due to

  • Low brain cell production of serotonin,
  • A lack of receptor sites able to receive the serotonin that is made,
  • Inability of serotonin to reach the receptor sites

Are you feeling the blues? Serotonin may or may not be the root cause.

But here is an interesting fact: Petting animals create a hormonal response in humans that can help fight depression.

Preliminary results by Rebecca Johnson indicate that levels of serotonin rise dramatically after interaction with live animals, specifically dogs. This hormone is critical for the psychological well being of an individual. In addition, we have discovered that there is no substitute for the real thing.

So seek out a neighbors pet (with permission of course), get your own pet or volunteer at a animal shelter, but make sure that you get your dose of serotonin by petting your animal friend.

Better yet, make sure to visit the Healthy Minds Puppy Visitation that will be hosted on March 6, 2013 for Engineer your Health Week.

Gratitude: Open door for satisfaction and happiness

Gratitude has more social benefits than the apparent “self actualized” aura that gives a person. Gratitude leads to a positive outlook on ones personal life and life long happiness. The motto “ Just be thankful,” is the key to happiness.


What makes gratitude so great?  Gratitude shifts the focus from what one lacks in life to the abundance that is already present, says McCollough and Emmons. A study conducted on several hundred people where different groups were asked to log all their daily experience (i.e. either just positive experiences or just negative experiences) found that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy.

In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.

The story does not end here. Have you felt the lack of creativity? Do you fall sick often? Relationships don’t work too well? Gratitude seems to be the answer to all these problems according to the research by Dr. McCollough and Emmons.


Furthermore, to say that we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means that we are aware of our blessings.


So how can you be more grateful in life?

  1. You have so much to be thankful for in your life already that you are taking for granted. You can do an exercise where you can imagine losing some of the things that you take for granted, such as your home/residence, your ability to see or hear, your ability to walk, you laptop, friends etc.. Then imagine getting each of these things back, one by one, and consider how grateful you would be for each and every one.
  2. Start finding joy in the small things instead of holding out for big achievements—such as getting accepted into University, getting A or B on an assignment, getting a question right in class, seeing your favorite dish at Pacific Spirit place, free food at a club event, etc.
  3. You can also give thanks to appreciate life more fully. Use gratitude to help you put things in their proper perspective. When things don’t go your way, remember that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit. In the face of adversity ask yourself: “What’s good about this?”, “What can I learn from this?”, and “How can I benefit from this?”
  4. Let people know that you are grateful for having them around by talking to them, writing a letter, message or even a simple text message.
  5. Keep a gratitude journal.


Remember Gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving. In an experiment looking at the effects of a grateful outlook on subjective well-being on 221 early adolescents, it was found that counting blessings was associated with enhanced self-reported gratitude, optimism and life satisfaction. And I am sure you will find this last statement convincing to be more grateful in life; significant relationship has been found between gratitude, satisfaction and school experience. Being grateful, counting your blessings and acknowledging things that you have started to take for granted will help you increase your satisfaction and happiness in life..

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”

Oprah Winfrey