Looking into the very core value of why we should work on our mental health and improve upon is the basis of this project. Knowing the value of mental health therapy and other form factors in society. Finding the positives and negatives of social media use on mental health. Interviewing individuals like Matana Jacobs that have succumbed hardships is the basis for the value and worth of mental health therapy. Discovering other traditional remedies and seeing how modern technology is changing therapy for good. This fact takes you down to understanding the underlying meaning of mental health in its true form.

Health is at the core of every living being. Being healthy means to truly have no suffering, be it mentally or physically. I will be diving deep into the mental health aspect to cover the variety of practices happening in today’s culture. The aim is to show what method is more valuable in today’s culture – be in mental health therapy or seeking objective advice. In today’s culture we see a rise in depression and other mental illness among this stigma. As outlets are limited, there are avenues for individuals to take such as seeking out mental health therapy and gaining objective advice from a friend, family member or someone who has been in your shoes before. We will seek to find the route that is the most affective and more valuable in today’s culture.

I plan to examine the business side of these, which form of treatment, if you may, is more profitable and worthwhile. The communication side as which one is able to effectively get the point across (in as less time). A communication design side as how the design impacts mental health.

For starters, mental health has been something I am very passionate about- as someone who suffers from a mental illness myself, depression, I have found different means to cope with it. I have been with therapists and have received objective advice from friends and family that have been in my shoes. I feel there is a light that needs to be shed in this area. As there is an ongoing stigma that needs to be elevated to point to where it’s okay to have something wrong with you. The goal is to open a dialogue and have further conversations in the realm, ultimately helping individuals out. Historically speaking, therapy has always been the main route to go through when seeking treatment for mental health related issues. I have personally that talking with someone who has been through my shoes to be a more effective route and I would like to see if their others that found this route more effective. As therapy is an unbiased approach and they are not really in your shoes. The need for further research is outstanding, as people repress their inner thoughts and individuals are committing suicide at a higher rate. As a society we need to be understood more than ever.

The context of this project is to find what is the most effective treatment for an individual suffering from mental health issues. We will examine the pathways from both sides – mental health therapy as well as objective advice and see how they both stack up. Overall the aim is to find the most viable solution for individuals that are suffering and provide immense value to them with this paper.

This problem is worth exploring, truly because the mental health crisis is more than unprecedented. In times of uncertainty, like with the COVID-19 virus cause mass turmoil amounts of consequences like high mass of unemployment and preventing college students to truly not be able to walk for their commencement is mortifying and terrible on one’s health. It already is difficult as is to secure a job in this day age with individuals will to take a lesser paycheck for the value of their skill just to secure a job. It is basic economics that is one of the variables causing this turbulence of a crisis on mental health.

Now this problem is truly worth solving, because people’s voices need to be heard and understood – and as of right now it does not feel like that is so. We need to work together to bridge the gap and end the stigmatization that is going on in the world and the way to really start is to be better understood. Mental health therapy is an optimal route for getting the job done, but the big issue in today’s society is the cost factor. Not many people are able to afford up to $100 plus a session to receive therapy – so they have to opt talking with their friends or family which is not as sufficient as that. Objective advice, where you are receiving valuable feedback from someone who has been in your shoes is majority of the time free and just as valuable as therapy if you are seeking answers to a problem you are currently facing. Say for example you are having difficulty with job security in the information technology field. Talking with someone who also struggled is an appropriate approach.

Currently there is a type of mental health therapy that is widely practiced in today’s therapy standards called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In essence what CBT is, is that it works on finding the negative feelings you have and finds the underlying route of the problem to reshape how you think to better yourself. This is a popular theory being used today for people with negative thought patterns that want to feel more positive. Having thoughts like they are not good enough; anxiety or depressive thoughts are ideal match for CBT. What CBT does is the expert therapist provides tools, like papers – say breathing exercises to recharge your mind and perform better. The thing with CBT, is that you cannot solely depend on your therapist to get well – it is a joint effort to perform well.

Treatment for mental issues really differs from person to person. With mental health therapy, you are paying out of pocket to receive professional mental health assistance. As for objective advice, majority of the time it is free – and someone has been through that patch before. There’s a special kind of treatment that counselors use called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for providing mental health therapy treatment. In CBT, you are not just “talking it out” with an individual, rather that you are taught how to recognize specific negative thoughts that are behind negative emotions and dig down deeper to identify the negative self-beliefs behind those thoughts. And as a person going through CBT, you would be recognized in the moment – for when an individual is having negative thoughts – you will be able to reframe your thoughts into a more positive light to prevent a spiral of negativity.

Talking with friends and family is not really suffice for deeper issues, rather therapy suffice what the deeper issues were and help realize what the deeper issues were. As for objective advice, gaining that sense of familiarity is cumbersome for being understood and in therapy you typically do not get that. Take for example a person that is afraid of heights and they speak with a person who was also at one point scared of heights and they conquered that fear. Simply put, the individual who conquered that fear will be able to share their perspective to the individual seeking advice and shed some light on their situation. A light that is relatable to them – on interests.

Here are some musts to keep in mind for self-care: nutrition, sleeping well, exercising, social support and avoiding negative self-talk. Nutrition – make sure to eat quality food is good. For some people, when they are stressed, they over-eat or under-eat. The kinds of foods you eat affects how you feel physically and emotionally. For example, too much sugar can make you feel energized but when you crash, you can feel tired, down, or experience low mood. Going to bed and waking up at the same time. Be mindful of lighting – you should turn off your phone or laptop at least 40 minutes before you go to bed to help your melatonin levels. Exercising done consistently is a natural antidepressant and is recommended for people who experience low mood. It can also help you sleep better.

Social support is linked with a variety of positive psychological outcomes. Having a lack of social support or social isolation has been documented to be a risk factor comparable to things like smoking, lack of physical activity, and high blood pressure. Alternatively, if someone comes to you for help with a problem, one of the best things you can do for them is to provide emotional support. They are looking for someone who will listen to them and validate their feelings. Avoiding negative self-talk as well. This can have a huge impact on your mental health. CBT teaches that the association between a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors which cam influence each other. Constantly having negative thoughts about oneself can have serious implications on the way you feel and interact within the world.

I have interviewed two individuals with varying background – Andrew Ward and Matana Jacobs. Both have the commonality of suffering from mental health issues. I dive deep into conversations between both of them on mental health to find out what has truly been working for them and to hear their stories on mental health therapy, objective advice and other forms of treatments.

We start with Matana Jacobs, an Orthodox woman out in Brooklyn, New York. As a young girl, Matana was shy and introverted but she had good friends. When she graduated high school, she spent her first year as an assistant in a special needs school. She later saw an opportunity in Hong Kong as teach in Jewish schools and took it. When she returned back to the states, she took upon an opportunity in the digital printing business. She was treading water in that position for the next two years and wanted to swim in another pond – so she did. She left that company and decided to call a friend that recruited her to join her software company. Matana had no clue how to do software and after a few weeks of shadowing her friend in negotiating contracts and meeting with government officials. After the few weeks were up, she found herself doing project management work within the company. One day out the bloom she collapsed into a deep sleep, later waking up in agony with feelings like she was dying. She was admitted into the hospital and doctors found no physical ailments or symptoms and diagnosed it as a panic attack. She felt her mind has been compromised. She asked her mother to aid and her husband and they sought the best psychiatrists, doctors and healers to rescue her.

The psychiatrist said it was not a matter of popping pills, rather Matana needed time to heal emotionally and physically from the trauma. And that it could take months of visits to doctors and healers, tweaking medication and braving the battle of depression. She was eventually able to recover and has spent over $200,000 on therapy related expenses to get treatment. When I asked her if she felt that objective advice helped, she said that the feeling of being understood helped her immensely. She at times felt like the therapist could not relate to her and the idea of being able to express yourself to someone who shares the same cultural values really appealed to Matana a lot. She mentioned how she used online therapeutically platforms like BetterHelp to connect with online professionals to help her mental health needs when she was unable to leave the house do to anxiety or depressive issues. From Matana Jacobs, standpoint we can see that it was a financial burden on her and that if she had the proper resource, she would have spent less and had gone the objective advice route – speaking with someone who she can truly relate too. The thing the Matana picked up from therapy was the set of tools – to be able to cope better in society as well as being able to handle her emotions better.

Now let’s take a look at Andrew Ward and his background. Andrew lives out in Park City, Utah. He is a ski instructor, having been doing that for over 7 years now. An injury a couple years on the mountain while on the terrain park led him down a deep spiral of depression not being able to instruct on the mountains. He spoke with his physician about antidepressants, which led him to going that route to offset his spiral bout. A few months later and he is feeling loads better – he starts to wain off the medication and seek therapy to better manage his emotions. As Andrew had been going to more therapy sessions, he felt that he could confide in that solely and not necessarily need the medication anymore. When asked about the objective advice he felt that would have been a good option, but he did not think coming off of medication to go straight to that would have been the most tactful approach. He feels strongly about therapy and thinks it was a great choice for treatment. He does feel that objective advice is valuable and that he would have gained great insight had he been connected with someone before he started taking medication to fill that void. As you can see from both set of interviews, there are varying degrees from how individuals perceive these remedies. Both have tried varying treatments and have found the best remedy for them. There is not a one size fits all treatment, as everyone has different backgrounds, factors and miscellaneous things going on in their life.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both mental health therapy and objective advice. For mental health therapy is that it can be as effective as medication in treating some mental health disorders. It can also be helpful in cases where medication alone has not worked.

Can be completed in a relatively short period of time compared to other talking therapies. Focuses on re-training your thoughts and altering your behaviors, in order to make changes to how you feel. Highly structured nature of CBT means it can be provided in different formats, including in groups, self-help books and computer programmed. Skills you learn in CBT are useful, practical and helpful strategies that can be incorporated into everyday life to help you cope better with future stresses and difficulties, even after the treatment has finished.

Cons for mental health is that to benefit from CBT, you need to commit yourself to the process. A therapist can help and advise you but cannot make your problems go away without your co-operation. Attending regular CBT sessions and carrying out any extra work between sessions can take up a lot of your time. Due to the structured nature of CBT, it may not be suitable for people with more complex mental health needs or learning difficulties. As CBT can involve confronting your emotions and anxieties, you may experience initial periods where you are more anxious or emotionally uncomfortable. Some critics argue that because CBT only addresses current problems and focuses on specific issues, it does not address the possible underlying causes of mental health conditions, such as an unhappy childhood. CBT focuses on the individual’s capacity to change themselves (their thoughts, feelings and behaviors), and does not address wider problems in systems or families that often have a significant impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing.

As for objective advice, pros for objective advice is that you are not judged. Objective advice gives you their advice regardless of any prejudice. You are given genuine, straight-forward advice which will help you. You are able to truly express yourself and feel understood. As for cons of objective advice, they really do not know your pressure and feelings. They could assume things as they do not know the full situation.

So how is the mental health stigma affecting us as a society? Well for starters it is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem. 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem. As for depression, it is the predominant mental health problem worldwide, followed by anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. We know that people with mental health problems are amongst the least likely of any group with a long-term health condition or disability to be finding work, being in a steady, long-term relationship. As well as living in decent housing or being socially included in mainstream society. Many people believe that people with mental health issues are violent and dangerous, when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people.  Social isolation, poor housing, unemployment and poverty are all linked to mental health issues – so stigma and discrimination can trap people in a cycle of illness.

Social media negatively affects one’s life in terms of their mental health. Although there are positives, like the connectivity aspect and using it as a tool. There are also negative experiences – social media promotes the feeling that there’s the inadequacy feeling about your life or appearance. Everyone really just shows the highlights of their time on social media. As for fear of missing out – the idea that you are missing out can truly affect your self-esteem and your overall health.

At the end of the day humans are social creatures and we need companionship in our lives to thrive and to strengthen our connections has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. Being socially connected to others can ease stress, anxiety, and depression, boost self-worth, provide comfort and joy, preventing loneliness, and even add years to your life. While on the flip side, lacking strong connections can pose a serious risk to your mental and emotional health. Spending too much time on social media can actually make you feel lonelier and more isolated – and increase mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

Social media does indeed enable you to communicate and stay up to date with friends and family around the world. Also finding new friends and communities; network with other people who share similar interests or ambitions. Joining or promoting worthwhile causes, raise awareness on important issues. Helps you find an outlet for your creativity and self-expression. Learn new, valuable information.

As for negatives aspects of social media there are numerous long-term consequences. There are feelings of inadequacy about one’s life. Feeling like you’re not good enough – consistently comparing yourself. It’s a vicious cycle that ultimately can destroy one’s self esteem and self-worth. There is also the fear of missing out (FOMO), feeling like you will miss out on certain activities – so you are constantly checking your phone for updates. There is also isolation too, a study from the University of Pennsylvania found that high usage of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram increases rather decreases feelings of loneliness. What exactly is the driving force for social media use now? That would be the instant gratification. The likes, shares and favorable reactions is what gives us that boost of dopamine – that rush of excitement. The more that you are rewarded, the more time that you want to spend on social media. When you are on social media you see start to compare yourself and that causes consequences on your self-worth as well as self- esteem. People showcase only the highlights of their life on social media. It is not an accurate representation to compare yourself. Suffering from sleep problems are also a negative effect as well – where individuals are usually checking it the first thing in the morning as well as right before bed. The light from the phone can disrupt your sleep and can have a serious impact on your mental health. Changing your focus from social media to the real world is the key to success. Not substituting social media as real life. Learning to take up a new hobby – or going on a walk instead is far healthier.

Therapists tend to make profit on a per session basis. Typical sessions range from $80 up to $150. These hourly sessions can have a toll on people’s wallets and may opt out for seeking mental health treatment. As for mental health platforms like TalkSpace or BetterHelp, they are doing a weekly therapy plan for about $80 a month. Which comes out to about $1000 a year for therapy. That is roughly a third of the price for in person therapy. Licensed therapists also offer telehealth too, which is over the phone or even a video call and these prices are still substantially higher than TalkSpace and BetterHelp. The prices are averaging $80 a session for a phone call. With insurance it comes out to about $50 a session. These prices are astronomical, and you can see why there would be a mental health crisis going. Treatment is available out there – it’s just that you would burn a hole in your pocket and that may require sacrificing putting food on the table for a night for a therapy session.

Now comes the question of mental health therapy being worth it for its value. As an individual, I would say that it is worth its value if you are in a financially secure position to afford it. There are alternatives out there like social workers that volunteer their own time to help underprivileged youth and impoverished individuals in society. I would say that a mental health care platform for a third of the price is far worth it than the traditional in person therapy. An argument stands is that these mental health helpers that are on the platform are professionals in the area of mental health and carry years of experience. If you are okay with sacrificing that in person interaction, by all means pursue it.

To communicate to a mentally ill individual would be to actively be listening and understanding of their situation. Being sure to be reflective as well as asking open ended questions. The intent is to put yourself in their shoes and empathize for how they are feeling. That would be the best route to take for communicating with a mentally ill individual.

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For communication designers, creating visual aids like the one above helps mental health individuals tremendously. As seen here, this visual aid allows you to check on your medication, indicate your current mood, track your sleep cycles, dictate your thoughts as well as journal all in this mental health toolbox. An app like this can help declutter and organize a person who has difficulty remember to take their medication. Small reminders that indicate visually and auditory – can help impact the individual and mitigate the risk of hurting themselves. Visual aids help impact individuals immensely. Take for example a person that suffers from ADHD. That individual has a difficult time pay attention to reading handouts. Now if these handouts contained visuals, like an infographic, that depicted what was happening. That could have a big impact on this person as their attention span is able to digest this information more fluidly and can understand what is going. A visual aid can improve quality of life and allows ADHD people to not fully feel limited with themselves.

There are alternates to traditional therapy as well. Backpacking outside in nature – this therapy is shifting away from the dimly lit office and into a scenic backdrop. Dancing and moving your body can encourage your brain to release feel-good endorphins – activating pleasurable responses. There is also art therapy as well, which helps express your thoughts when you are unable to communicate how you are feeling with words. There is also sand tray therapy. This form of therapy allows you to create your own universe using miniature toys and colored sand. The scene that is created acts as a reflection of the person’s own life and allows them the opportunity to resolve conflicts and work towards removing obstacles and being able to gain acceptance of themselves. Music therapy is also an outlet being used. Studies have shown that music therapy and the vibrations of sounds help to relieve anxiety and depression. Gardening has been a soothing activity and helps bring about a calming effect. There are even self-help book that provide insight and improvements to your personal life. There are also peer support groups, where you are able to share insight of similar experiences and empathize with each other. Medication is also an option that can help to reduce the symptoms you may experience from your mental health problems. Whatever the therapy is, the best therapy is the one that works for you. As each individual is unique, so there is no one size fits all therapeutically remedy unfortunately. Trial and error are the best way to determine what is best for you.

Now from a business standpoint – starting a mental health business would be a great venture. The question begs, exactly what kind of mental health business would you want to start in today’s age of modern technology and that answer would be a platform that connects everyday individuals together based on common experiences. An application where you are connected with someone who has been in your shoes before and you are able to relate too. An application where a common joe is able to translate their experiences into cash by providing valuable insights to someone currently experiencing that situation. A platform built on an algorithm designed to connect individuals on key dataset point values. Values such as their fears, sports, disabilities, and medications. Combing key data points allows a meaningful connection to be made. A connection where an individual seeks out advice and a supporter are able to provide that advice in exchange for a monetary value. This platform would not be a monthly basis service like TalkSpace or BetterHelp. It would be a per session cost basis – ultimately reducing the costs significantly and opening the doors to struggling college students. The market to focus on would be college students do the fact that this demographic is highly depressed, anxious, and working on a budget within means.

Going from here, what to do next? Well as I stated earlier about mental healthcare platforms like TalksSpace and BetterHelp – these platforms provide great insight and value for mental health at a fraction of the cost of traditional therapy. In today’s age of negativity of social media, the need to detox and seek mental health treatment is unprecedented in society. Not comparing yourself and learning to take a break when needed is a great start towards one’s mental healing towards a vitality. Working towards ending the mental health stigma in today’s culture by means of opening the dialogue is the right pathway for society. There are other mental health platforms out on the market. From the likes of Ginger, Wisdo, and Squish. Squish is unique in the sense that it is connecting like-minded people together based on common experiences. I want to further expand upon my knowledge in mental health and tie this research into my findings for a potential employer in the mental health space.

My intended goal is to help open the dialogue with mental health and showcase approaches that have helped individuals along the way to recover their mental health journey. I would like to shed some light on this sensitive topic and hopefully bring about change with the way we look at mental health with providing treatments. Hopefully an alternative approach, rather than traditional (in-person) therapy route. A route to be better understood.

 

 

Citations

Ahmedani, Brian K. “Mental Health Stigma: Society, Individuals, and the Profession.” Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2011, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3248273/.

“Alternatives to Therapy.” Mind, http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/talking-therapy-and-counselling/alternatives-to-therapy/.

“Communicating with a Loved One Who Has a Mental Illness.” NAMI MAIN LINE PA, 24 Apr. 2019, namimainlinepa.org/communicating-with-a-loved-one-who-has-a-mental-illness/.

Corrigan, Patrick W, and Amy C Watson. “Understanding the Impact of Stigma on People with Mental Illness.” World Psychiatry: Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), Masson Italy, Feb. 2002, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1489832/.

“Pros & Cons of CBT Therapy.” The CBT Therapy Clinic – Nottingham – West Bridgford, http://www.thecbtclinic.com/pros-cons-of-cbt-therapy.

“Stigma and Discrimination.” Mental Health Foundation, 10 Feb. 2020, http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stigma-and-discrimination.

Wiebe, Jamie. “7 Alternative Types of Therapy That May Surprise You.” Talkspace, 28 Jan. 2019, http://www.talkspace.com/blog/types-of-therapy-alternative/.

 

 

 

Max Fritzhand

I am currently a senior at the University of Cincinnati studying Graphic Design and Business! Personal Website: MaxFritzhand.com