Gratitude for Health

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, there will inevitably be a lot of talk about thankfulness and appreciation of life and all they have to offer. Aside from the goodness of gratitude on a personal, social, and at times economic level, rarely do we talk about the healing power of #gratitude. This Thanksgiving and each day forward, let’s focus on thankfulness and gratitude as a tool we can use to help each of us feel better from the inside out.

Living in a world where individuals across cultures are mired with stress from every direction, the very idea of existing with a sound mind and body is fast becoming a distant dream for many. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of all doctor visits are for stress-related aliments and today’s biggest health challenges are cardiovascular disease, mental disorders, cancer, diabetes, and obesity — all conditions that are often linked to living in a state of constant stress (Yakel, 2014).

However, evidence now shows that if we lived each day as though it were Thanksgiving, then, the major causes of stress and imbalance in life would not be allowed to spiral out of our control. Actually, the idea of ‘practicing gratitude’ is gaining traction in the world as an effective means to tackle stress and its negative effects like #depression, #anxiety and others. “Changing worry to gratitude dramatically affects the way our body responds to stress,”Yakel discusses, drawing on a recent research finding.

To further quote Yakel’s article, The Healing Power of Gratitude, he states,Robert Emmons, Ph.D., and professor at the University of California, Davis, has written the first major scientific study on gratitude, its causes, and potential impact on human health. In his work entitled Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr. Emmons concluded that ‘grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism, and the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness’.”

Gratitude-Schools for Hope Program

Students list what they are grateful for on classroom whiteboard as part of Schools for Hope curriculum.

Undoubtedly, an ability to morph worry and despair into gratitude will breed #hope as well. Many articles which hone in on the power of gratitude in healing, inform us that focusing on what one has, as opposed to what one doesn’t have, is the key to gratitude. This may indeed also be the key to planting seeds of hope;  in essence, it requires one to be able to place focus on the positive over the negative.  One of the tools we teach in our Schools for Hope program is the importance of gratitude and how it aids in our mental health.  Here are some helpful suggestions and ways a person may develop and express gratitude.

  • Writing in a gratitude journal
  • Thanking at least one person a day
  • Spending one minute a day thinking about and/or listing all of the things in life for which you are thankful.

Of course, each person will have their own way of understanding and practicing gratitude, but it is central to remember that it does have the power to heal and if we can be grateful, then we’re likely to be happier, which means we will naturally be healthier as well. As such, the relevance of gratitude then in cases of #depression and #anxiety also cannot be overlooked. The way in which to addresses these illnesses too is rooted in the perpetuation of a sense of positive energy and #hopefulness. So this Thanksgiving, let’s not just #givethanks, but accept and internalize the healing power of gratitude!

 

A new blog by Bidushi Dhungel 

Teaching Hope: A Powerful Lesson

IMG_0958iFred’s recent project, Schools for Hope, launched this fall with fifth graders in the Chicagoland area. The curriculum aims to teach hope to students as a result of the disheartening statistic suggesting that one out of nine students attempt suicide before graduating high school, with forty percent of those being in grade school (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2011).iFred learned that research suggests that hope is a teachable skill and created the program with the intention of instructing each and every ten year old around the world useful tools for finding and maintaining hope.

Hopelessness is the number one symptom of depression and leading predictor to suicide (Association of Physicians, 2004) and suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is an issue that must receive our attention and action.

Our society has created a stigma surrounding mental illness and as a result individuals become isolated, feel ashamed, and do not seek treatment. This is no different with our children. It is evident we must educate on the importance of caring for our minds as we do for our bodies, and by doing so, we will encourage new generations to embrace mental health, provide people with the support and care that is currently lacking, and lead individuals to effective treatment.

According to the World Health Organization, prevention programs have been shown to reduce depression including school-based programs focused on enhancing cognitive, problem-solving, and social skills of children and adolescents. The Schools for Hope curriculum is designed to provide children with the tools to always find hope and promote the importance of caring for an individual’s emotional well-being.

It is important and necessary to understand the research, statistics, and learn about what we can do to create change and improve on in mental health education. However, after having the opportunity to observe firsthand the discussions that formulated in the classroom, I must add that the true gift and lesson was also given by the children. Hearing their thoughts, ideas, and insight on the importance of hope, was nothing short of inspiring, heartwarming, and a reminder of the impression we can make on young open minds.

By giving them hope, we empower new generations to enact change for the better. Scholastic agrees, and recently released an article written by teens in their Choices Magazine, educating teens on depression and offering treatment and support options. Editor Eva Rosenfield stated, “The stigma surrounding depression makes people feel like they can’t talk about it openly-or at all.  And in turn, these people are not getting the help they need.”

We can make a difference and save lives. Let us listen to the voices of our children and bring them a world where they always have love, support, compassion, and HOPE.

#teachhope #sharehope

A new article written by Penny Tate

Young and Vulnerable: The biggest tragedy regarding youth mental illness is collective inaction

This year, United Nations International Youth Day (IYD), on August 12, has been designated to celebrate the importance of youth mental health with the slogan ‘Mental Health Matters’. This is an opportunity, particularly for low and middle-income countries, to highlight a vitally important—but utterly neglected—aspect of youth life. The neglect has occurred on many levels by both state and society. In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rightly highlighted the global urgency to address the stigma and discrimination of youth with mental health conditions.

For the majority of youth who suffer from mental illness, they are forced to live a life of rejection from friends, society and relatives. They are denied the status of ‘citizen’, social membership and basic human needs, robbing them of a dignified life. Around the world, mental illnesses play a significantly negative role in the development of hundreds of millions of youth and their social and economic inclusion and empowerment. In poor countries like Nepal, the young population with mental illness is in a particularly vulnerable position because of the lack of a public health approach in dealing with mental illness, the absence of basic support for their recovery from the state and the deeply entrenched stigma of their illness.

More at risk

Coinciding with the IYD 2014, the United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs has published an insightful report, ‘Social Inclusion of Youth with Mental Health Conditions,’ targeting global actors involved in the field of youth empowerment. I would recommend that youth activists and development workers in Nepal and abroad read this report seriously.

While the young years of life are usually considered to be the most physically active, healthy and energetic of one’s life, this phase is also one when people are most susceptible to mental health problems. However, in many low and middle-income settings, the latter risk is entirely ignored. I do hope that the exposure the issue is getting this year will be instrumental in changing the outlook of mental health, particularly of youth mental health, across the globe.

Nearly one fifth of the global population is comprised of youth aged 14 to 24 years. Almost 90 percent of these live in low and middle-income countries. In a study carried out by Professor Vikram Patel and his team, it is estimated that approximately 20 percent of youth experience a mental health condition each year around the world. Because the youth years are a phase of emotional transition and a time to nurture and pursue childhood dreams, the pressure to study well, find jobs and opportunities is also high.

Drug use, emotional and learning difficulties and disappointment are common. In countries like Nepal, socio-economic disparities and practices of early marriage and strenuous labour can make the situation worse, leaving young people more at risk of experiencing mental health problems than anyone else. Many studies suggest that over 70 percent of mental disorders start before the age of 16. One in nine children attempt suicide before high school graduation and 40 percent of those are in grade school.This is clear evidence that mental health services must be developed to target young age groups.

Educating and collective action

OPRF School Planting, 2013

The prevention and promotion of mental health issues is the way to deal with the growth in mental health problems amongst the youth. Integrating mental health issues into school education is the most effective approach to prevent and promote mental well-being. With an ambition to institutionalise mental health education at the school level and teach hope from an early age, US-based entrepreneur Kathryn Goetzke and her team have just started a pioneering programme, Schools for Hope. This team strongly believes that we can teach our kids how to find pathways to hope, no matter what they experience and that ultimately, we can prevent suicide in youth and adulthood. If this programme is successful, it will be a revolutionary step forward in promoting and institutionalising emotional health and mental well-being.

The biggest tragedy regarding mental illness is collective inaction, which has perpetuated tremendous fear, uncertainty, helplessness, segregation, and hopelessness in the lives of those who suffer. Rather than the illness itself, a fear of social rejection and segregation leads almost a million people to commit suicide every year, with the majority of them young people. By promoting greater social inclusion and empowerment of youth living with mental illness in society, we can change this reality.

It is also vitally important to spread the message that effective services (both social and clinical) exist to manage all kinds of mental health problems. We need to build capacity and a knowledge base to address them. Now, we have to start demanding equitable investment for the mental well-being of the population by asking that the state make holistic mental health services available and accessible for all.

 A new article written by Jagannath Lamichhane

Lamichhane is global coordinator of the Movement for Global Mental Health