People often get confused between mental illnesses and mental health. They tend to think they are perfectly well because they don’t have any mental illnesses, but often forget that even if they don’t, they may still need mental health support in order to improve their well-being, especially when we are gay.
Differences Between Mental Illness And Mental Health
What we need to understand is that mental health issues doesn’t necessarily mean having a mental illness. You can be mental illness free and still need mental health support. Indeed, as mental illnesses are clearly defined (schizophrenia, bipolarity, nervous depression…), mental health is more about our overall sense of well-being and how we feel about our lives, ourselves and those around us.
What Is A « Good Mental Health »?
As we just said, it is difficult to define clearly what a « good mental health » mean. Still, some signs can help us to determine if our mental health is in good conditions. For this, ask yourself some basic questions such as:
- Am I able to cope with my life’s normal demands?
- Do I feel comfortable in my own skin?
- Can I get on with orders?
- Do I have a good attitude to life?
- Am I able to work or study properly?
- Do I contribute to my community?
Basically, ask yourself if you feel good most of the time. If you feel bad more than fifty percent of your time, whatever the reason, may you understand it or not, you might need help in order to improve your mental health. Anyway, keep in mind that there is still a part of normal daily stress. No one feels good 100% of the time.
Stress Can Lead To Isolation
The main problem with a bad mental health is that it often starts with insignificant troubles leading progressively to isolation and when this happens, it becomes really difficult to take the necessary steps to get better. So if you feel like you don’t want to go out anymore, you become uninterested in going out for a drink with friends or that you don’t want to speak about little struggles of life, you are probably going downhill and waiting for things to get better on their own will most likely not be enough. You need to react.
You Are Not Alone
If you realize you start to get isolated from your family, your friends and the rest of the world, you probably feel that nothing can help and that you are alone in your struggles. In this kind of situation, keep in mind that it is the depression speaking to yourself as this is absolutely not true. It is normal to feel worried or down at times and one in four people will experience a major mental health problem at some time in their life, may they be gay or not. Mental health problems like anxiety and depression are relatively common for everyone and you really need to keep that in mind.
How Can I Get Better ?
Well, as we said, most mental health issues start with some unimportant factors which, added one to another, culminate in unmanageable stress leading to isolation. For this reason, you need to define what are the sources of your everyday life stress. In the gay community, major reasons for stress are silence about our sexual orientation choice and negative life experiences such as homophobia, close suicide, violence or crimes.
In both case, you need to ask yourself if you are totally in peace with your sexual orientation. If you have not come out yet, you might need to speak to experimented people in order to know if you are sure enough of yourself. If you are, then it is probably time you come out with some people in your life, which will highly help to feel better and less isolated.
Being at peace with yourself about your sexual orientation will also help to cope with negative life experiences such as homophobia much better. When such an action will happen, you will not feel ashamed anymore but rather it will amplify your self-esteem and self-confidence. For this reason, you must be clear with yourself and what you want to be in your life.
Are There Different Steps Of Mental Health Deterioration?
When experiencing mental health issues, you will go through several phases:
- First you won’t be aware that you are going downhill. You will think your stress is just normal daily stress, but you’ll start to get isolated without realizing it.
- Next step is to become aware that things won’t get better on their own. You accept you have mental health issues and start to think of what you can do to solve them.
- Finally, you will find the support you need, either by coming out to some important people in your life who will help you to cope with this difficult time, or by seeking professional help to get emotional support.
This last step is often the most difficult as it is usually very hard to ask for help, especially when the second step comes late (e.g. if you already have suicide, violence or crime thoughts). If you have already come out to some people in your life, it might be easier to speak to someone, but if you haven’t, it is always hard to take the step to ask for professional help. Like it is often said, « sometimes, you just need someone to speak to ».
Be Strong And Ask For Help
In this case, you really need to be strong and do it. For this, remember that making the decision to take the phone and dial a number takes less than a minute. You don’t need to be strong for a long time to get help, but just for a minute. Find the number of a mental health hotline and call. They might not bring you all the help you need but they are used to hearing situations like yours and they won’t judge. If really you need more than what they can bring you, they will signpost you to more appropriate services.
Note that if you are redirected to a mental health center and that you book an appointment with a psychologist for example, your mental health condition might deteriorate between you helpline call and the day of the appointment. During this time, your strength and courage will likely be weaker and you might want to cancel the appointment or just not show up. To avoid this, plan a new helpline call the day or the morning before your appointment. It will help you to keep strong and make sure you show up.