Importance and Objectives of Mental Health Diagnosis and Treatment

April 9, 2024

Mental Health Goals and Objectives

A Proactive Stance

Probably about ten years ago I wrote about the basketball player, LeBron James and the arc of where I anticipated his career going. He was already the best at his craft in the world and showed no signs of slowing down. And even though I am an avid basketball fan, I wrote about this not just because I was impressed with his talent on the court, but his work ethic that he put into recovery. At my time of writing, LeBron James was reported to be spending $1.5 million per year on recovery. Think stretching, training, physical therapy, cryotherapy, and so on and so forth until we reach that $1.5 million. It's obviously an insane number as 99.9% of people can only dream of having $1.5 million to spend on their entire life in a year, let alone one part of it that is not even necessary to survival.

If we fast forward to today, LeBron James is now the all time leading scorer in NBA history and is in year 21 of his NBA career, again with few signs of him slowing down. If you are a basketball fan, you know that what he is doing is unprecedented. If you are not a basketball fan, what he is doing is unprecedented. His physical health is off the charts compared to the wear and tear that his body has been through. And for me, mixed with the God given abilities that he clearly has, it all goes back to the initial investment that he made in his recovery. He knew that he wanted to have one of the longest careers ever. He's actually said that his goal is to play in the NBA with his son, which is something that has never even come close to happening. Basketball teammate family members are usually reserved for brothers or sisters, not parent and offspring.

And the first step in this journey did not begin with reactivity to the circumstances around him. It began with a proactive stance on what was yet to come all the while surveying the demands that being a professional athlete put on his body.

And this is my call to you, that you would take a proactive stance on your mental health. We live in a society where we take a reactive approach to mental health issues as well as physical health. Our insurance system is set up to take care of conditions when they come up. We treat the illness and the symptoms, rather than working to prevent them from happening in the first place.

You Have Mental Health

Everybody has mental health. Please, read that again.

We talk about mental health like it is something that some people have and something that other people do not have. But this would be like talking about our physical health in the same regard. We just assume that there is a spectrum of physical health and you exist somewhere upon it in terms of whether it is thriving or if it is not going very well. Additionally, the factors that plot you on this scale are multifaceted coming down to biological, social, environmental, and the choices that you make in your everyday life.

Mental health professionals will tell you that your mental well-being is exactly the same. You may not qualify for having a specific mental health condition, but that does not mean that you do not have mental health. You are just not currently experiencing the symptoms that come along with mental illness or meeting the diagnostic criteria. And I say "currently" to insinuate that this could change and it is not entirely in your control. As of this moment I do not meet any criteria for a disease, condition, or illness, at least that I am aware of. But that could change in a moment. I could get into a car accident later today and wind up with a broken leg, requiring a lot of care and treatment. My three year old could bring home the flu from school, something that is pretty much guaranteed will happen. Or I could get diagnosed with something that catastrophic, like cancer, and it may be something that sticks around for the rest of my life.

So just like your physical health can change, your mental health journey is one that is filled with ups and downs.

Creating A Plan

I believe that positive change does not occur without intention. I would love to be able to give you a system of small steps that you can engage in that's going to get you to where you want to go. But I'd probably need to sit in front of you and do quite a bit of assessment in order to do that. However, if you want to take a shortcut, I'm sure there are quite a few influencers on social media that would love to sell you their one size fits all system for unlocking your best daily life. Spoiler alert: it will include a gratitude journal. No hate on gratitude journals, it's probably a good idea to have one. But consider it your daily does of vitamin D. Pretty much everybody is deficient in vitamin D and so telling people they should take it is probably going to be a good idea. Odds are adding some more gratitude into your life will have be a good starting point. You're probably deficient in it.

Our first step in outlining some achievable goals is by plotting where we are on the map. This is the case with any long-term goals, that we have to first understand where we are beginning before we even identify where we want to go.

I like to begin this process by taking some inventory of how I have been feeling in the current season I am in. A few questions I ask myself are:

"How quickly do I move out of my window of tolerance?" This is just asking myself how easy it is for me to get to a point where my emotions are dysregulated. It's going to happen no matter, but if it's happening multiples times per day for seemingly small things, it's a good indicator that our stress levels might be too high.

"Have there been any significant stressors going on in my life?" These do not even need to be "bad" things. For instance, my wife and I are currently expecting our second child in just about a week! And boy, does that take up a lot of space in my mind. It's a great thing, but something that contributes to the amount of stress that I am currently experiencing. Stress generally comes from the amount of energy that we are needing to expend to meet the demands of our lives. You are a finite being and odds are you are going to find that limit.

"Am I currently living in line with my values?" I have a very specific values inventory that I do every year that I consistently come back to. If you want to learn more about it, I teach it to you for free right here. Values work is a very powerful tool.

After assessing where I am currently at in my life, I move on to some of the more consistent factors that exist in my life. Is there anything that I personally have a history of or a familial mishap that I should be aware of. This is looking at some of the more biological components. Most mental health counselors will tell you that there is a biological factor to your mental health. It's rare that I find a client with OCD who does not have a family member exhibiting an anxiety disorder as well. Substance abuse seems to follow similar genetic trends and tends to "run in the family." As we do this, we aren't bringing judgment to this, we are just again taking in information the same way that you would for your physical health. If there is a history of heart disease in your family, you might take a more proactive stance in combating that rather than "waiting and seeing" if it's something that surfaces in your life. If you grew up in an anxious, avoidant, volatile, pressure driven, shame based, or any other multitude of unhelpful factors, you have probably carried some of these beliefs and traits into adulthood.

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