Mental Health: Are you in isolation?
Making the right choice doesn't always come easy, but if you listen to the word of God, the process of morality may be a bit clearer for you.
For example, weight. I am not a doctor, but I am under the impression that a person who is too thin may not have enough energy reserves to recover quickly from a health setback. But on the other hand, a person who is too heavy is more likely to experience heart stress or skeletal problems.
Similarly, our mental health is not something that exists in isolation. This is why it is likely that in this issue of the Interrobang you are reading advice about mental health that covers a range of areas.
Some of them will be obviously related to mental health. You might find encouragement to seek talk therapy with a counsellor when you are stressed. Or you might find encouragement to take seriously the need for prescription drugs if you are dealing with anxiety or depression (not that I want to encourage carefree prescription writing when there are non-chemical ways of dealing with a mental health challenge).
The state of our mental health is of course strongly impacted by a number of strong factors: our genes; our physical health; and the stressors that come from bullying, domestic abuse, and conditions such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Other areas may not seem as obviously connected with mental health. These might include meditation, going for walks, owning a pet, spending time with friends, staying in touch with family, and enjoying healthy recreational activities. But with a little reflection, we can see how they are, in fact, related.
Today I’d like to consider one area in particular that may not appear related to mental health, but likely is. That is the area of personal morality.
In the Western world, and increasingly in other parts of the world, personal morality (and to a very large extent, societal morality) has been shaped by the Christian tradition. That tradition and its moral teachings are grounded in the Bible.
Consider some of these teaching. There are the biblical moral injunctions to not steal, to not murder, and to not lie but be truthful. Consider the Christian imperatives to treat sexuality and commitments of love and marriage with care. Consider the Bible’s stipulations to honour parents and also to encourage our children. There are many more examples of moral teachings in Christianity, and its basis, Judaism, but this sampling should do for now.
If one plays fast and loose with these moral commands, could that contribute to a breakdown in a person’s mental health?
When we steal, we may acquire more, but we become less human. For one thing, guilt quickly sets in. When we cheat on our marriage partners, we do not become mentally stronger. We expose ourselves to the stress of long term cover up, hiding something that should not be. When we lie, we do not become strong, except in some perverse sense. We become weak.
We could feed our addictive tendencies by indulging in binge drinking, curling up with a joint every evening, or supporting those who pathetically sell meth, ecstasy, or pills of some other kind. But the impact on our mental health will not be pretty.
Similarly, when we commit an act of emotional or physical abuse, we do not become stronger – again except in some perverse sense that may serve you well in jail or among the company of twisted people. We become weak, fearful, self-justifying and therefore delusional; not to mention lonely in the sense of being outside circles of people who are positive and can make us stronger.
Of course, not all mental health problems can be avoided by right behaviour. There are many who pursue right behaviour and are nevertheless crosschecked with a mental health difficulty that is uninvited.
However, telling the truth can only improve mental health. Working for what we need rather than stealing or freeloading can only improve our minds and moods. Making commitments of love and marriage with care can only make us stronger of mind. Avoiding addictive activities or seeking help with that when we need it will only benefit our minds and spirits. Speaking words that heal and strengthen others instead of caving in to the temptation to verbally or physically abuse, can only make you or me mentally healthier.
Finally, making moral choices like these will attract other people who will support our own resolve to live strongly, well, and in good spirits. And that is worth thinking hard and long about.