Positive Mental Health Training


Facilitated one day workshop on Positive Mental Health on 20 October 2011 for the counselors at SOS Children’s Villages Nepal, National Training Centre, Kavre. There were 18 participants working as counselors in various parts of the country in SOS villages.

In the workshop, the participants were introduced to the key concepts of psychosocial well-being, positive mental health and positive psychology in the first half of the day. In the latter half of the day, the key concepts of Solution-Focused Therapy were introduced theoretically and Standard Format of First Session was demonstrated through the role play. The training was well-received by the participants and they expressed their gladness to learn the new technique of Solution-Focused Intervention which was introduced in Nepal with the help of Claudia Van Zuiden this year earlier in April.

Contents were mostly theoretical including the research findings related to positive psychology. Some participants raised the doubts regarding some of the results which I think is good skepticism. Psychological research related to positive psychology is yet to begin in Nepal. Some videos from ted.com were also shown which were related to positive psychology and design & happiness.

The praiseworthy matter about SOS Children Villages is that they are already working with positive approach that includes family model which promotes positive mental health. In a home, 10 children stay together with a mother. All the children become brothers and sisters taking care of one another. Nabin sir took me around the village and I saw a very good nurturing environment for the children with very good physical facilities for shelter and play. They also have a school inside in which the children from outside community can also get admitted and study. This helps me in socialization of the children and their reintegration into the society when they grow up to become independent.

I would like to thank Mr. Nabin Bajracharya, Assistant Director and psychologist in SOS Nepal, Mr. Udaya Aryal, director, SOS National Training Centre, Ranjan dai and all the participants.

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Positive Mental Health


Positive mental health is a state of psychological well-being and optimal functioning. After decades of activity in understanding mental illness and developing interventions for alleviation of psychological suffering, psychologists have realized the efforts to conceptualize positive mental health and optimal human functioning lagged behind the work on mental illness. What began as a small, pocket-sized book called Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) with a list of glossary in 1952 has come a long way and evolved into an impressive and influential 943-page document covering the symptoms of mental illness in 2000. Psychologists have also started to work actively to build the science of psychological well-being which they call Positive Psychology. Social psychologist Marie Jahoda (1958) was among the first to introduce the concept of Positive Mental Health in her book. She characterized mental health as the positive condition that is driven by a person’s psychological resources and desires for personal growth. She described these six characteristics of the mentally healthy person:

1. A personal attitude toward self that includes self-acceptance, self-esteem, and accuracy of self-perception

2. The pursuit of one’s potentials

3. Focused drives that are integrated into one’s personality

4. An identity and values that contribute to a sense of autonomy

5. World perceptions that are accurate and not distorted because of subjective needs

6. Mastery of the environment and enjoyment of love, work, and play

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Is Mental Health = Mental Illness??

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Definitely, No! But this kind of misconception is widespread not only in Nepal but around the world.  For example: if you go to the site of National Institute of Mental Health and read their slogan (Transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through research), you will get similar message that mental health is equivalent to mental illness and its treatment. I remember Martin Seligman, pioneer in positive psychology, writing in one of his articles that it should be renamed as National Institute of Mental Illness. Such misconception needs to be corrected through general awareness about mental health that it encompasses the state beyond the mere absence of diseases.

Marie Jahoda (1958) in her book “Current Concepts of Positive Mental Health (Basic Books Inc.)”writes in the opening paragraph of her book:

“There is hardly a term in current psychological thought as vague, elusive, and ambiguous as the term “mental health.” That it means many things to many people is bad enough. That many people use it without even attempting to specify the idiosyncratic meaning the term has for them makes the situation worse, both for those who wish to promote mental health and for those who wish to introduce concern with mental health into systematic psychological theory and research.”

This is true indeed. Mental health term usage and understanding is so varied among people. People mostly talk about problems and treatment or prevention. Why? One explanation to this kind of scenario is that the attainment of positive mental health is a passive process, whereas the remediation/treatment of mental illness is an active process that demands more resources.  I think if we focus equally upon promotion of positive mental health, over half of the problems are reduced or never occur. In a resource poor country like Nepal where there are very limited human resources to meet the demand for services, promoting positive mental health is an important step towards preventing mental illness and growing resilience. Paraprofessionals and volunteers can play supportive role with the help of professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, etc to fulfill the demand for services.

The research in positive psychology is helping us to understand how it could be promoted and what kind of interventions work. Therefore, I recommend there is a need of more doing research on psychological well-being and positive mental health. There is a need of developing locally appropriate interventions for increasing psychological well-being for people in Nepal as it culturally differs from Western countries. We also have to identify the social resources that are available in our community and embedded in our local culture that promotes mental health. For eg: life rituals performed during important milestones during the course of individual’s life play an important role in safeguarding mental health and preventing emotional distress & psychological problems.

It is important to remember that our mind can feel unwell like our body does. Like the physical problems, psychological problems are also treatable. Psychology has achieved immense success in the area of curing mental illness. 14 of the disorders are treatable and 2 of them are curable. People are often nervous when it comes to psychological problems, seeing the psychiatrist is the worst thing they can imagine because it means being crazy and being abnormal in the eyes of others which brings a lot of stigma to self and family in the society. Well, it is normal to have the ups & downs inside our mind. Please, don’t hesitate to seek for professional help when it is necessary.

Benefits of Positive Mental Health

Lower Risks of Physical Health Hazards

•Optimism is negatively correlated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality.

•In looking at more severe physiological events, positive affect and positive explanatory styles have been found to protective against stroke.

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Resilience

•Resilience in psychology is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity.

•Healthy human development can take place under conditions of even great adversity due to a process of resilience that is common and completely ordinary.

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Gratitude (Expressing thankfulness)

•People who express gratitude on a regular basis have better physical health, optimism, progress toward goals, well-being, and help others more.

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Optimism

•Optimism can protect people from mental and physical illness.

•People who are optimistic or happy have better performance in work, school and sports, are less depressed, have fewer physical health problems, and have better relationships with other people. Further, optimism can be learned.

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Positive Relationships

•The happiest people all appear to have strong social relationships.

•Positive relationships give a lot of social and emotional support.

•Married people are comparatively happier than single or windowed or separated.

Happy Mental Health Day!! Let’s Promote Positive Mental Health.

Some portion of this post has been published last year in https://sujenman.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/world-mental-health-day/
 
all images used in the post were found via Google images.

Presentation on Positive Mental Health


 

Click Full screen & view it large.

This was the presentation I did in the yesterday’s program. With the upcoming World Mental Health Day on Oct 10, a lot of people in the next few days will be talking and discussing about mental health but being focused upon mental disorders and their solutions. I wanted to highlight the taken-for-granted aspect of mental health. We seem to be obsessed with just the fixing problems ignoring what is right & working and making it better.

“Psychological science and practice has to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making  the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology”.
(Christopher Peterson, 2008 in The Good Life {psychology today blog})

 

CAPS’ Event on the context of upcoming World Mental Health Day


Wednesday, 06 October, 2010.

Central Association of Psychology Students (CAPS) in support with Central Department of Psychology, Tribhuvan University and Psychology Network organised an event on the occasion of upcoming World Mental Health Day and Dashain & Tihar festival. The event took place in Center for Nepalese and Asian Studies (CNAS) seminar hall.

The program included welcome speech by Renu Shakya, President of CAPS, teachers’ wishes exchange speech by Sumaya Rai, Sandesh Dhakal, and Sanjesh Shrestha. The representative from CPSSC Sabitra Neupane and former active CAPS member Rocky Maharjan also expressed their wishes. Following that, there were presentations by professor Shishir Subba on Mental Health in Nepal, Sujen Man Maharjan on Positive Mental Health (Some Research Findings) and by Netra Kumari Neupane on PTSD. The short recreational activity was conducted by Shyam Sundar Shrestha, Secretary of CAPS before the students’ presentations (Sujen and Netra Kumari). The short break helped to refresh the minds of the participants. The refreshments and additional break was taken after the presentations. Before the closing of the program, the documentary titled “Journey of Recovery” was shown.

Finally, we did the round of self-introduction of participants and received some feedback on the program. Most of them said that it would have been better if more teachers and students from the department were present in the program. Time management was another main issue, the time period planned for the program was only about 2 hours but it took more than 3 hours to complete the whole program. Some participants thought it would have been good if some professionals who are active in the field of psychology and mental health were invited and given an opportunity to share their work experiences and knowledge. Besides that, the participants expressed their gladness for organising the program and commitment for participation in future programs.

We would like to thank all the participants, teachers and staffs from Central Department of Psychology for attending the program. Special thanks go to Shishir Subba Sir, Head of the Department and CPSSC for providing some financial support to CAPS for organizing the program.

Sujen Man Maharjan,
Vice President, CAPS,
Tribhuvan University.

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Resources:

06 oct handout (Handout distributed to participants)

Positive Mental Health 2010 slides (Slides of my presentation)

This was the documentary shown in the program: