Do you consider yourself to be a good person? Do you feel you have a sense of purpose and meaning in your life? Do you have people in your life to support you?
These are just a few of the questions that the Canadian Mental Health Association wants you to ask yourself this Mental Health Week, to check in on your own well-being.
“It’s important that all Canadians should be monitoring their mental state with the same interest they devote to managing their blood pressure or any other physical concerns,” said Fardous Hosseiny, national director of research and public policy for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
That’s why the organization put together a checklist on its website so people can consider their own mental health and supports. “The ultimate goal of the tool is for individuals have an open and honest dialogue with themselves and to assess where they are on the continuum of mental well-being,” Hosseiny said.
1. Sense of self
The questions are grouped into six categories and are based on research into what makes up mental health. The questionnaire asks people to consider whether they agree or disagree with various statements.
The first category looks at people’s sense of self, with statements like “I consider myself to be a good person.”
“We deserve to feel well,” Hosseiny said. And if you aren’t doing well, you should feel empowered to say so and to take a break to get better. “It’s really capturing being your own driver of your life, making sure that you feel that way, that you’re making decisions and you’re confident about what you say and how you feel.”
2. Purpose and sense of meaning
The second category, which deals with having a purpose and sense of meaning in your life, is “huge” according to Hosseiny.
“Purpose can be through education, employment, caregiving activities, cultural ways of being.”
He’s heard from many veterans, for example, who say that they’ve had a tough time re-integrating into society after deployment. “On the battlefield when they were deployed, they knew what their sense of purpose was. And they knew what their job was,” he said. They had to rediscover a purpose when they got home and they had problems until they did that.
The third category, belonging, is a simple human need, Hosseiny said.
“I think it comes down to one of the most basic senses of being human is you want to be liked and you want to be a part of something.”
You might derive your sense of belonging from your family, or a group of friends, or a community or culture, he said.
This category gets at people’s desire to make a difference, with statements like, “What I do matters a lot to others.”
“You have your own unique strength and you should feel good about that,” Hosseiny said. “You bring something to the table that no one else does because you are a unique individual. And once you capture that internally, it really increases your mental health and well-being.”
5. Hope and enjoyment
Are you optimistic about your future? Do you enjoy life? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself in this category.
This last category gets at how you respond when things aren’t going well. “It’s understanding that you might have some tough days,” he said. “You might feel sad and your mental health might be poor for a few days, but that doesn’t mean that’s the end. There’s still hope. You can tap into these other categories, these other buckets, to feel better about yourself.”
Although Hosseiny stresses that this is not a scientific survey or a diagnostic tool, if you notice that you’re saying no to a lot of these statements, he recommends you look into improving some of these areas.
The CMHA recommends strategies, like reconnecting with people, being active, trying new things and giving back to others, as ways to improve and maintain your mental health.
The full mental health questionnaire can be found on their website.
Hosseiny also warns people not to confuse mental health with mental illness. “Someone can be diagnosed with a mental illness and have great mental health, while someone without mental illness may be struggling with theirs,” he said.
“If we are stuck in a bad job, a bad relationship or struggling with some other aspect of life, our mental health suffers. We may be quite miserable. But that doesn’t mean we have mental illness.”
It’s important to monitor your mental health the same way as you monitor physical health, he said. “Why do we wait until people are in crisis to intervene? Let’s act sooner and the soonest we can act is by promoting safe mental health from the beginning.”