Mental health is so much more than either feeling good or being in crisis. Recognising where you are on a mental health continuum can help you know what actions to take to make sure you are building towards a healthy mental state.
“How are you?” “How’s it going?” “How have things been?”
These simple questions are actually an important starting point for assessing where we are at on the mental health continuum. As awareness and understanding of mental health spreads worldwide, people are beginning to think beyond the illness aspect of mental health.
Even in the recent past, mental health has typically been associated with struggles or challenges brought on by difficult life events or mental health conditions. Today, however, we are understanding the need to observe mental health in all its stages, and learn how to support ourselves no matter where we are at. Knowing what the stages are, and how to take action to better or maintain our mental health, is critical in promoting overall wellbeing.
What is the Mental Health Continuum?
The mental health continuum helps us see mental health outside of a binary concept of “well” or “unwell,” instead placing it on a nuanced spectrum that can flow either gradually or quickly between stages. This is important, as it better orients us to how we are doing, and gives us benchmarks by which to monitor our mental health and determine whether we need extra support. There are different models outlining the mental health continuum, but the stages within it can be roughly broken into the following four stages:
When we are in a healthy stage on the mental health continuum, our mind and body is balanced, our outlook is positive, and we are able to manage challenges and stress with resiliency. We feel like we can manage our emotions, and experience them without being completely overwhelmed. Our thinking is clear, our sense of humour is intact, and we can cope without the use of substances.
- Feeling a sense of peace and calm
- Being able to experience joy and excitement
- Good level of productivity
- Sleeping and eating well
- Normal level of social activity
- No or limited amount of substance use
When you are in a “healthy” mental health stage, your main focus should be on maintaining it. This is an ideal stage for our bodies and minds, and giving yourself the resources you need to stay healthy is important. Identifying and leaning into networks of support is a key part of this, so when you do experience hard times, you have others who can help you through it.
Additionally, focusing on your physical health through keeping good sleeping, eating and exercise habits will also build a strong foundation for a continued healthy stage. Managing stress by taking problems one step at a time can also help prevent overwhelm and strengthen your ability to cope with hardship.
In the “unsettled” stage of mental health, we are realising that something feels off. We are edgy and not smiling or laughing as much as we usually do. We are not sleeping as well, and our appetite is either lower than usual or veering towards unhealthy “comfort foods.” We might not be sure exactly why we feel this way, but we know that something is bothering us.
- Feeling frustrated, irritable and moody
- Increased worry and sense of negativity
- Lack of focus, feeling unable to concentrate
- Disturbances to regular sleep and eating habits
- Feeling challenged in connecting with others or socialising
- Increased amount of substance use or other unhealthy coping mechanisms
The good thing about being in an unsettled stage on the mental health continuum is that it’s relatively easy to get back on track if you can identify it early on and lean into your support networks. Talking to friends and family can help, as can using relaxation techniques or exercise to help de-stress and process what’s going on.
If this isn’t working, talking to a therapist may be useful in figuring out what’s bothering you, cultivating positive thinking, and coming up with solutions.
When we are “struggling” in terms of the mental health continuum, we are beginning to lose control of our ability to manage our emotions. We may be overcome with anxiety, or consistently depressed. We start to feel like we can’t talk to anyone about what we’re feeling, even though we may have a sense that we need to.
- Feeling anxious, sad or depressed
- Increasing sense of hopelessness
- Decreased productivity; brain fog, or racing thoughts
- Poor sleeping and eating habits
- Withdrawing socially, becoming more isolated
- Engaging in destructive or risky behaviour
Even though you might feel like you can’t talk to anyone about how you are feeling, this is a critical stage to reach out for support. Connect with trusted loved ones and let them know you’re struggling.
Take time to engage in healthy coping activities, like meditation, getting outside, or regular exercise. Be ready to call a professional mental health specialist if you’re not seeing any improvements.
When someone is in the “in crisis” stage of the mental health continuum, they are actively suffering. Unable to control or mediate negative thoughts, the emotional pain of this stage is constant and severe. Exhaustion is common among those in crisis, and completing even simple tasks like getting out of bed, brushing teeth, or getting dressed can feel impossible.
- Severe anxiety and depression
- Emotional pain, or sense of feeling completely numb or empty
- Unable to complete basic daily tasks
- Consistent insomnia or oversleeping; lack of appetite or compulsive overeating
- Isolation; not having the energy to communicate with others or go out
- Using substances as a way to try to self-medicate symptoms
- Suicidal thoughts or ideation
If you or someone you love is in crisis, it’s important to seek professional mental health support immediately. A specialist can work with you to identify the root causes of the crisis, determine ways to help you feel better immediately, and put together a plan by which to regain and maintain mental and physical health.
Strengthening Mental Health at The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand is a specially designed rehabilitation and wellness facility created to foster an environment of personal growth and healing for people who want to change their lives and overcome addiction or mental health issues.
Whether you are feeling unsettled, or are in complete crisis, The Dawn’s highly customised mental health treatment will help you gain a deeper understanding of your symptoms, and learn skills to effectively manage stress and hardship.
The Dawn’s areas of specialty include
A Mental Health Retreat in Thailand
Internationally accredited by the American Accreditation Commission International (AACI), The Dawn offers tailormade treatment plans that cater to each individual’s needs by using a comprehensive, holistic treatment method and modern techniques with proven results. With our small client numbers, you’ll receive regular, personalised attention from our compassionate, internationally-trained staff.
Our centre is conveniently located just outside the beautiful city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, a one-hour flight from the country’s capital of Bangkok. At our tranquil riverfront property you are completely removed from your triggers, the people, places and things that contribute to your condition, and immersed in a safe and soothing environment.
Call The Dawn today to learn more about how we can help you regain your health and improve your life.