The New Frontier of Mental Wellness

Mental health and illness represent, in some sense, the final frontier of health education that science and medicine are working to bring to the forefront of awareness in a culture rife with such health issues. Canada is on the leading edge of that movement. Where mental illness was once considered to be a rare occurrence among the general population, it is now known that there is a continuum of mental health issues that range from mild to more severe. A large segment of the population will find themselves somewhere along that continuum at some point in their lives.

Increasingly the concept of good mental and emotional hygiene is now viewed as both necessary and desirable in order to live a full and satisfying life. Psychotherapy and mental health counselling were once only for those with serious mental health concerns; now counselling, therapy, coaching, life management and other forms of individual and group-support options are being accessed by even those who would be considered mentally healthy. It’s a sound proactive approach that more people are embracing in order to find greater life satisfaction. Psychological, mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health represent the foundations of success, joy, peace and prosperity. Creating a comprehensive plan for life and work that includes all aspects of the human condition is the key to creating a happy life.

It is noteworthy to point out that a large portion of many therapists’ clientele is working with people who have no diagnosis of a mental health issue; rather, they are people who wish to deal with general unhappiness, a sense of being directionless, confusion around choices and decisions that may have brought difficulties or even the need to face circumstances that have followed them for too long, creating unrest and a sense of being stuck in their lives. We all can benefit from the focused attention and unconditional positive regard that characterizes a good therapeutic relationship that helps to lift us from self-deprecating attitudes, often brought about by a lack of empathic, reciprocal relationships.

Just like a dearth of financial knowledge can lead one into a morass of woes in the area of financial health, so a void in what constitutes mental and emotional health can create unnecessary life challenges, leaving one vulnerable to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Good mental hygiene demands that we equip ourselves with the knowledge, attention, focus and awareness of all that which encompass a happy and mentally healthy life. Coined beautifully by the psychiatrist, Irvin D. Yalom, in his book ‘The Gift of Therapy’, therapy is potentially both liberating and exhilarating.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Brenda Whiteman, BA, RSW


                                                                                                                               Health As A System

In the coming decade, the Mental Health Commission of Canada states that one if five Canadians will experience some form of mental health concern at some point during their lifetime. (

As a society, we are getting so much better at acknowledging the important, and even central place that mental and emotional factors hold in the overall health of any individual. We have come to understand that our thoughts and feelings and experiences are deter minant factors in our sense of happiness and life satisfaction.

Indeed, we are even beginning to accept the central role that feelings, mental health and life experiences play in the outcome of physical health. This a giant step forward. It is a curious thing that generations of scientific progress hasn’t brought the western hemisphere to the realization that human life is a concentric and holistic system, each part profoundly influencing the sum of its parts. Education and research has largely been separated into silos with physical health viewed mostly as a separate issue from mental or emotional health. It’s a perspective that truly lacks wisdom; it seeks knowledge of the physical system with only a passing nod, if one exists at all, to the profound interplay of thoughts and feelings and their influence on the body.

A deeper, more comprehensive, ergo wiser understanding has long been part of the theology of many religions and philosophies around the world. The Ayurveda medical philosophy from Hinduism has a vast and complex system of health which includes all aspects of consciousness as fundamental to physical health and healing. This is one of many perspectives on human health that one could argue is more comprehensive than western medical science.

Psychotherapists and many others health professionals understand that feelings and emotions play such a central role in physical health that it’s foolish that we continue to idolize advances in scientific research devoted mostly to physiology alone, while ignoring the deep, interwoven and inextricable aspects of the psyche. Everything about us is part of the larger picture of our health system and nothing is insignificant. Psyche means soul, and we can’t tease apart our minds and bodies from our consciousness if we wish to live in a way which fosters health, wholeness and integrity of our complex and wondrous systems .

As a wise man once said, “The body is the servant of the mind, it obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed.” (James Allen, As A Man Thinketh, 1902)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Brenda Whiteman, BA, RSW