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Mental Health Defenders And Mental Health Saboteurs.

The diagram below illustrates what can be either mental health defenders or mental health saboteurs.  These are five areas of life that can help protect people from mental health problems but they can also make people more vulnerable to them.  They can work to help people recover from problems or push them deeper into distress.  The healthier these areas of life the better equipped people will be to deal with the things that happen to them.

The mental health defenders can be like a ring of defences surrounding a person.  The more rings you have around you the more protected you are from the negative things in life.

The mental health saboteurs are like traitors within the fortress walls and act to open the person up to being undermined and attacked from within.

The diagram illustrates how negative things attack us from outside but these things are less able to reach us or do us harm if we have good defences.  Problems, stress, financial difficulties, health issues, losses, loneliness and so on are things we must all face at times.  A well paid job can protect us from financial difficulties, loved ones can protect us from loneliness, interests and activities can protect us from boredom and so on.

On the other hand, a poorly paid job with a bullying boss, abusive relatives, friends who only come around to borrow money and a spend-thrift spouse can add to our problems and make it harder for us to cope.

The more of these five things your life contains, provided they are positive things and not negative, the better.  The main reason for this is that it spreads your psychic needs around.  A kiss from a loved one, a compliment from a friend, an hour daydreaming, a couple of hours on a fun outing and meeting a work goal or making progress on one is much more likely to keep a person happy than a day alone wondering why life is such a drag and why they are so lonely!

I have met people who became physically and psychologically ill because one close, horribly toxic, relationship gradually pushed everything else out of their lives!
These are the five things people can have in their lives.  These things can help protect mental health or contribute to problems.

1.    Family
The more people you have in your life that know you well and love you the better equipped you will be to cope when things go wrong.  Family includes your partner, children, parents and other long term or intimate relationships.
2.    Friends
The more people you have in your life whose company you enjoy, people who care about you, the better equipped you will be to find life enjoyable.  Close friends fall into this category but so do other friends and social acquaintances.
3.    Interests
There needs to be me time.  Things you enjoy doing at home such as reading, gardening, listening to music, writing or even watching paint dry as long as it’s something you can enjoy doing when you are alone.  They can be things you can do with other people as well but they generally tend to be solitary pursuits.  Things you can do to nourish and please your inner self.
4.    Activities
Ideally you will have a range of activities you enjoy leaving the house to do such as playing sport, dining out, picnics, walks in the park, going to the movies and so on.  These generally tend to be things you would do with other people but they can, and should, include things you like to do alone.
5.    Work
This one may shock you and you may be shaking your head in protest but read on.  People need a purpose of some kind for their lives, something to reach for, some thing that makes them feel valuable or useful.  The work may be paid but it can also be volunteer work or home duties – anything at all as long as the work makes you feel useful or valuable.

My heart sinks when I hear someone say “He (She) is my whole world.  I don’t enjoy anything if he (or she) is not with me.”  That person is saying, in effect, all of my well being is resting on the shoulders of this one person.  That is a very heavy burden for their loved one to have to carry.  It also means that person has no safety net to catch them if their loved one should die or leave.

So don’t put all your eggs in one basket – spread yourself around and increase your psychological health and well being.