261 - Mental Health

calling-in-to-work-to-take-a-mental-health-day-off

A lady I have never met stared at me across the café and said loudly “Hello”. I looked up and having gained my attention, she then said, equally loudly and still more than five metres away, “It’s World Mental Health Day”. Her capitals. I’m ashamed to admit that I made no response, and I am still wondering why that is so.

In the time between her starting and finishing her sentence I have realised that of the group of people amounting to a noticeable crowd in my local Subway, she was the appreciably the most presentable. But I’m also recognising that when people say “Hello” they’re about to try to get something from me, like a hand-out. Or, in some ways worse, to make a sale. I am trained, thanks to our current society, to be remarkably negative to such advances. That is a loss for both me and society, but I see it as a defence mechanism.

In the interval between the end of her sentence and my breaking the joint gaze I have had several thoughts:

(i) Do you mean awareness of a lack of mental health? and some mental post-its as follow up to-do thoughts

(ii) Not me, I’m way to the right of the scale

(iii) Maybe I’m not; how would I know?

(iv) What has Subway come to? Followed almost immediately by “Why shouldn’t they support a charity?” – with a load more ‘later’ mental post-its.


I am embarrassed about this circumstance at several levels. I am remarkably unaware about mental health, how to measure it in any sense – whether one’s mental health is god, bad, indifferent, needing work. I don’t have the slightest idea if one needs to work on mental health like one must work on physical health, though I do put a similar amount of time daily to trying to curb loss of mental faculties as I do the physical ones, I am well aware that I simply don’t ‘do’ learning, where the obvious demand is for me to learn Chinese, particularly the writing.  I tell myself I am not interested but the truth would be that I am unaware, which is disinterested as opposed to uninterested.¹ Yet if I am to judge myself as a responsible member of society, then perhaps I should take an interest, even if only briefly.

What is it?

Mental Health.gov [1] tells us both what it is and what it isn’t. Do visit [1] to discover the (14) early warning signs of a lack of mental health, any of which applies. If were a hypochondriac I’d recognise: ‘pulling away from people’, evidenced already; having unexplained aches or pains, like the muscle pull that’s kept me off running for a fortnight when the tweak came from an unusual reaching movement; feeling unusually angry – my temper is still short these days, directly aggressive, but I calm down well inside ten minutes. But I’m not a hypochondriac.

Positive mental health allows people to:

  • Realize their full potential
  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Work productively
  • Make meaningful contributions to their communities

Ways to maintain positive mental health include:

  • Getting professional help if you need it
  • Connecting with others
  • Staying positive
  • Getting physically active
  • Helping others
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing coping skills

I don’t ‘get’ several of these, which reads to me like a blank cheque for psychotherapy. If one had positive mental health, why would you need professional help? Does mental health universally decay in the absence of such help? ‘Connecting with others’ requires that every castaway must necessarily have poor mental health, for failing to meet anyone. ‘Getting physically active’ is a change of state, not a maintenance position. ‘Developing coping skills’ reads to me as an equivalent to managing a chronic condition. Thus I return to the header phrase, ‘ways to maintain mental health’ and decide I have misunderstood. I think this is a list of ways to restore mental health, to move one’s health in a positive direction, however marginally.

Which brings us to that odd word, wellnessThe state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal; Apple dictionary.  I can hope that the NHS is steadily moving from being a business whose aim is to fix our lack of health towards one which chases national wellness. In that same sense, one could hope that mental health can be recognised as having similar importance to physical health, and that maybe the two should not be separated at all. Wellness is not simply being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth. [2, page]. So that might have parallels to our wishes for a state economy, not merely not ill, but actively seeking improvement, what an economist calls growth.Still with source [2], there are apparently eight ‘dimensions’ of wellness (oh, please, but this is American): occupational, emotional, spiritual, environmental, financial, physical, social, and intellectual. I’m sorry, I detect a load of cultural baggage here, demanding in several ways that we conform to external measures of ‘normal’. I have learned—and written at length on here—that what one culture declares entirely normal would be declared extremely odd in another. For this reason I find the hold that American media has over the English-speaking market entirely deplorable, as US cultural norms are pushed upon the rest of us. Surely we should be far more tolerant of differing opinions (and the cultures that fit with those) and thus demand far less in the way of conformity? I am not saying that our culture (say, the British one, while immigration is a hot issue) should accept absolutely all behaviour as being okay, but I am saying that we can draw the line of acceptability quite low with some simple tests such as the effect of your behaviour upon others, which we generally describe as being considerate (or not inconsiderate). Unnecessary intrusion being a good general descriptor, I suggest.


If we adopt the word wellness and emphasise that this is a change process in the sense of continual striving to improve, then the list from the Health Xchange [4] might assist:

Here are 10 ingredients that can boost your mental wellness for a healthier you.
Get at least eight hours of sleep a day You are more alert and less prone to stress after a good night’s rest. Getting enough sleep can also improve your memory.
Eat a healthy diet. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, cut the risk of dementia and mental decline
Good nutrition is a natural defence against stress. Begin your day with a nutritious breakfast, preferably of wholegrain cereals and fruits, and take balanced meals throughout the day.
Keep yourself active. At least 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week, is ideal. Exercising keeps you physically strong, and reduces or prevents stress. Go for a walk or unwind with yoga. It is better to do moderate exercise regularly than to have a heavy workout occasionally.
Interact with others. Talk to another person for at least 10 minutes daily Talking to people stimulates the brain. A study in the US found that talking to another person for just 10 minutes a day improves memory scores. Also, the more you interact with others, the faster your brain will work.
Pick up a new skill or hobby Learning to play a musical instrument, acquiring computer skills, starting a new hobby or learning to cook a new dish can help keep your brain active and healthy.
Get a mental workout. Scrabble or mahjong anyone?
Engaging in mind-boggling games involves a combination of memory, decision-making and strategising, which keeps the brain active and prevents dementia. In addition, playing in a group will boost interaction.
Do something for others. This is the best remedy when you’re feeling down
Helping a friend or family member, or doing community work helps you to take the focus away from yourself. In turn, you will feel more positive and less helpless.
Learn to manage stress. Shift your mindset and make a list. Make a list of goals and check them off when they are completed. This will help you tackle things one at a time. Seeing problems as opportunities or focusing on the positive can also help to reduce stress. Stress cannot be avoided, but you can learn to manage stress.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. They are not the solutions to problems. If you have emotional problems, seek support from family and friends, or get professional help. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs provide only temporary relief from stress and unhappiness.
Laughter is the best medicine. Laugh yourself silly and have fun whenever you can. Laughing can help to keep the doctor away because humour activates the brain’s reward and pleasure centres, generating emotions and relaxing the mind.

This strikes me as very similar to the content of essay 246 on Happiness. I have already noticed a need to interact, missing on retirement and I actively seek that but am not yet successful. I could do with more laughter; my last really good laugh was from The Play That Goes Wrong. Heres why, though I think the Blackpool performance was even better.


All of which might confirm that the me-me-me component is satisfied.  Rubbish; how would anyone measure if their potential is fulfilled, short of providing an example of Parkinson’s Law, by being promoted to a proven and recognised position of incompetence? Do I show that I’ve reached (say) physical limits because my running is governed by failure to stay well enough to race? Or that my mental capacity fails because I cannot complete Wednesday's Times crossword? Or top the Sudoku daily tables? Or do the maths  I could five years ago? Of course I could contribute a lot more to my ‘communities’ (see the list at the top of the page), but I say that would not make me happier, which I personally rate above ‘better’ mental health. I recognise I am low in emotional intelligence, but I see few reasons to attempt to change that (as yet; I may become persuaded to attempt change).

Does all of the above suggest that well-being and especially mental wellness is something limited by external factors? Are we any nearer providing a quantification? I don’t think so, not when the measures are remarkably relative ones. Enter source [5] and test [6]. From my perspective the test asks about how you feel about yourself. I gave myself extreme scores on all questions but one, scoring 68/70, but the whole idea is for the test to measure changes in those opinions. 

I remain dissatisfied that I have discovered what mental health is, beyond confirming that I myself seem to be rather luckily well. I have not discovered any new interest in helping those less well-off, except perhaps in the outward-bound sense of giving people experiences in which they discover that they are far more robust than they thought. But being happily retired provides a sort of got-the-T-shirt reasoning that says I’m excused a lot these days, when it is that very attitude that needs to be challenged. I’m not sufficiently needy of worth that I particularly wish to seek it, I’m not desperate enough for interaction to settle for less than I find acceptable and I really don’t like people in general enough to want to go meet Joe Public. I recognise I am a wasted resource and that this position is largely my own fault. My cursory searches for some meaningful and fulfilling activity—that falls within my narrow limits of acceptability—have all failed to find anything I would wish to commit to.

Suggestions gratefully received, but don’t impose your culture upon me. Unnecessary intrusion, remember?

DJS 20181010
top pic source, found using Google images, but it looks to me like the image is Taken, so to speak.

[1] https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health

[2] https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/wellness/maps 

[3, or not] There is a report on Health and Wellness in the UK which might well be worth reading, but NOT at £1375. I found that the executive summary is available at the click of a mouse and no associated cost yet discovered. This shows me nothing, no content, about mental health.

4] https://www.healthxchange.sg/wellness/mental-health/ten-ways-achieve-mental-wellness

[5] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/what-wellbeing-how-can-we-measure-it-and-how-can-we-support-people-improve-it

[6] https://Warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/med/research/platform/wemwbs/wemwbs_14_item.pdf

RISING INTEREST AND DEMAND FOR HW PRODUCTS
The health and wellness industry continued to see strong growth in 2017, with consumers in the UK increasingly looking for ways to improve their health through what they eat and drink. Free from products saw especially strong growth in current value terms in 2017 with growing awareness about food allergies, while demand also extended to those looking to restrict their intake of gluten and lactose as a lifestyle choice.
CONVENIENCE HELPS SUPPORT GROWTH IN SOME CATEGORIES
There was a trend towards healthy snacking in 2017, with consumers increasingly eschewing traditional meal times due to their increasingly hectic lives. This helped support the growth of HW savoury snacks, with products such as nuts, seeds and trail mixes proving especially popular thanks to growing awareness of their high content of vitamins, minerals and good fats.
DANONE AND COCA-COLA BIG PLAYERS IN THE HW INDUSTRY
French multinational Groupe Danone led the overall health and wellness category thanks to its strong position in categories including HW baby food, dairy and bottled water, with brands including Aptamil, Activia, Cow & Gate, Volvic and Evian, as well as its Alpro brand which is synonymous with soy milk in the UK. The company continuously launches new lines and brand extensions under its large portfolio, such as its Light & Free range of yoghurt which was launched in 2016.
MODERN GROCERY RETAILERS DOMINATE DISTRIBUTION
Modern grocery retailers is the dominant channel in the distribution of HW products in the UK, with most consumers carrying out their weekly shop at supermarkets and hypermarkets, while the discounters channel continues to grow thanks to the strength of the Lidl and Aldi chains. Not only are these stores the popular choice for consumers, but many also offer their own ranges of private label HW products, with these being especially popular with price-conscious consumers.
ENERGY DRINKS SET TO GROW WHILE REDUCED CAFFEINE PRODUCTS DECLINE
HW beverages is set to see a dynamic performance over the forecast period, with the demand for healthier products becoming stronger every year. Media articles about healthy eating and the risks posed by the consumption of too much sugar and fat should continue to drive demand, with the UK government also set to introduce a sugar tax on soft drinks from 1 April 2018.


¹ Known dispute here. I belong in the camp that says these words are not synonyms and should not be used as such, but then I am a fan of words having specific meanings, however disparate. An uninterested person is bored, unconcerned, or indifferent; a disinterested person is impartial, unbiased, or has no stake in the outcome. If you're on trial, you want a disinterested judge. Unless you’re a lawyer, the word you’re generally looking for is "uninterested," but a quick news search shows that "disinterested" is frequently misused by the media.  Source.      The difference between disinterested and uninterested is often controversial. According to traditional guidelines, disinterested should never be used to mean not interested’ (i.e. it is not a synonym for uninterested) but only to mean ‘impartial’, as in 'the judgements of disinterested outsiders are likely to be more useful'. Ironically, the earliest recorded sense of disinterested is for the disputed sense. Today, the ‘incorrect’ use of disinterested is widespread: around a quarter of citations in the Oxford English Corpus for disinterested are for this sense.  Source.


 However, © David Scoins 2017