Why It’s Time To Start Thinking Differently About Our Mental Health Care

I became aware of the stigma surrounding mental illness in the Iranian culture when I was only a child, and it made me want to choose a career path so that I could do something to change it. Then in 2001 my family moved to America, and I quickly learned that the same stigma is alive in the American culture.

Have you watched the news lately?

It is filled with various ways showing us how deprived our society is to mental health care. From prevention to treatment. Society lacking proper education and care. We continue to not prioritize our mental health, or the mental health of others. We continue to wait until we are in crisis to see a specialist. And meanwhile, decades of bio-psycho-social and epigenetic research findings supporting the relationship between quality of our mental health and EVERY aspect of our individual, community’s, and larger society’s well-being continues to pile on. Sadly, very few of us have become aware of this.

We cannot shake off this feeling of shame.

We continue to not value mental health care the way we value physical health care. We get shamed by the society if we neglect to see our family physician, dentist, and optometrist for an annual check-up. Hell, we get shamed by the society if we don’t floss our teeth or take our daily vitamin. But what messages are we getting regarding the importance of preventive care for our mental health? Do we even know how we can engage in preventive care for our mental health?

Most people I know in my personal and professional life are overworked, overstressed, sleep deprived, under nourished, and lack some type of coping skill regarding a certain issue in their lives. And we all wait until we are too depressed to get out bed, too anxious to manage our responsibilities, too emotionally dysregulated at home, or until we are numbing our pain and escaping our emotions with prescription or illegal drugs, alcohol, shopping, or excessive screen time.

Consequences Of Lack Of Treatment in America (Stats listed on NAMI)

  • Serious mental illness costs us $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in teens and young adults and 3rd cause of death in children 10-14, even though it’s 100% preventable.

  • Mood disorders are the 3rd most common cause of hospitalization for both youth and adults.

  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. These adults die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.

  • Over one-third of students with a mental health condition age 14­–21 and older who are served by special education drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.

  • Each day an estimated 22 veterans die by suicide.

  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.

It is time we view mental health care differently.

We do not have to wait until all hell has broken loose with ourselves, our children, or our loved ones until we take action. We can start by prioritizing our own and our children’s mental health every single day, when we feel both well and not so well, in small and big ways. Just the same way that we value getting physical activity, enough sleep, and good nutrition.


  • Understand that your mind and body are CONNECTED. When you do not get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, or move your body, your mind will not be able to manage stress properly, especially if your diet is high on inflammatory foods. And stress is part of life, so you can’t avoid it if you want to be a healthy individual, so we might as well be in the best physical shape so we can manage it. But this works the other way around: excessive amount of stress and mental health difficulties take a major toll on our quality of sleep, how WELL food is digested, and put us at major risk for all sorts of medical conditions. If there is nothing else you take away from this post, PLEASE understand this point that I’m trying to make.

  • Learn how you can self-care, aka fill up your mental and emotional “cup”. Everyone’s soul, body, and mind gets recharged differently. But most of us need a good combination of proper physical care, calming alone time, positive and meaningful social interactions, and some sort of purpose in life. One person might need 8 hours of sleep, another person might need 10. One person might feel better after listening to music, another through a hike or painting a picture. One person needs one-on-one social time, or physical touch, another might need to be frequently around their whole extended family and close friends. Invest time and energy figuring out what works for you, and then do it as much as possible.

  • Educate yourself. Nowadays, you have access to information at the tip of your fingers. From podcasts, to audiobooks, YouTube videos, blog posts, books, magazines, online and in person support groups, and educational websites, we have access to SO much information. Educate yourself on how to foster children’s social and emotional development if you are about to become a parent. Learn how you can support your teen as they transition to college. Find out what skills you need to have a successful marriage. Any life transition is an essential time for you to engage in preventive care. Don’t wait until your child is having behavioral issues, or your child is struggling in college, or your marriage is falling apart.

  • Find yourself a good therapist, give it a try, and value the time and money you are putting into it. You will learn and grow so much. It doesn’t have to be a long process. It can be once a month, or once every few months, just to discuss major points, learn new tools, and ensure that you are managing things properly. There are also a TON of self-help books that you can buy online, or online live groups that you can enroll in for a low price. Find an expert on a topic and subscribe to their newsletters or follow them on social media. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn.

  • Seek services if you are going through something challenging. Engage early on in your challenge. And be honest and open with others about the fact that you are in therapy. Don’t have shame that you are seeing a therapist (supposedly in New York and LA, all the cool people are in therapy). If you don’t know where to find a therapist, ask around, get help from your insurance, or go on Psychology Today. Some examples of major life events during which it’s important that you seek mental health care are loss of a loved one, experiencing a traumatic event, being diagnosed with a chronic or terminal condition, going through divorce, changing or losing a job.

  • Encourage loved ones who are struggling mentally or going through something challenging to seek metal health care. Remind them of the benefits of preventive care, and ask them what you can do to help them make that first appointment.

The effort we put into ourselves trickles down to our children and our society. Our children benefit by watching and learning from us and by having us be healthier and more stable adult in their lives. This helps them grow into healthy adults who will manage their mental health well and be better members of the society. We all owe it to ourselves and the next generations to come to progress in this area of functioning. Sadly, we are currently mostly going backwards. But as you can see, it does not take much to get ourselves on the path to wellness.

Hasti Raveau is a child and family psychologist and the founder and owner of Mala Child and Family Institute. Much of her work is focused on helping children improve their emotional well-being, supporting parents on their parenting journeys, and empowering families so they can repair, grow, and thrive.
I became aware of the stigma surrounding mental illness in the Iranian culture when I was only a child, and it made me want to choose a career path so that I could do something to change it. Then in 2001 my family moved to America, and I quickly learned that the same stigma is […]

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