I am being asked often why I don’t talk about mental health and mental illness that much and I use the concept of mental wellbeing instead. It’s a good question considering that at the beginning of my career I was a very passionate mental health practitioner. So what changed, what shifted in my mindset and implicitly in my work? Let me tell you as little story that might challenge your perception of mental health and mental illness altogether.
I started as a clinical psychologist and, naturally, I followed the medical model, looking at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as my bible. I used to spend my consultations writing long, detailed life histories for my patients and doing standardized test to measure their cognitive processes, mood, and emotional functioning, but I soon realized that I was more interested in talking to people and easing their distress than doing tests and evaluations.
At the time, I was working in a palliative care hospital, which was a hard yet unique experience that raised many inquiries around human existence and our purpose in life. The memories of the dying patients voicing out their upsets and regrets for the first time in their lives are still vivid in my mind and have informed my path ever since.
So I started to feel that it made more sense to me to understand human nature from an experiential perspective and not just through theories from books, and gradually my insight into human suffering made me question the psychopharmaceutical treatments and prompted me to search for alternative therapies.
This is how I ended up training in psychotherapy and counselling and all of the rest and I distanced myself from the medical model looking at health from a holistic perspective, considering physical fitness, spiritual harmony and psychological comfort, but also our human nature and the impact of the social world on our wellbeing.
As the time passed, I noticed that my clients felt more comfortable in that person to person space than in a clinical setting and this is how my style of work developed outside of the medical model, as much as possible away from labels, evaluations and diagnosis which we tend to internalise easily and integrate them into our identities.
My work with the amazing people I met throughout the years taught me that whether we go for the big dreams or a simple life, we come from the East or the West, we are females or males, in a form or another, we all go through the same experiences that define human being and we all struggle in life sometimes. How we handle them and how they change us is a matter of biography, circumstances and personal choices.
Nowadays, I’m an wellbeing advocate and I guide people overcome their life challenges to create authentic and fulfilling lives in an smooth process of self-discovery and personal growth. We do not talk much about mental health and mental illness. They are socially constructed concepts developed to make sense of behaviours we cannot fully understand and accept. We focus what is in between these 2 poles.
We focus on our mental wellbeing, which I define as “a natural human manifestation oscillating on a continuum of experience back and forth between well and unwell in all of us”. We are changing perceptions in mental wellbeing and together we are contributing to changing the world.