The Importance of Self-Reflection

We’ve all heard of self-reflection, and I’d wager most of us would feel comfortable defining it. But generally, self-reflection exists more as a concept that’s understood in theory rather than in practice. How many of us genuinely self-reflect consistently? And how could we? Why should we? Today’s world is full of information, activity, and resources; it’s hard to find the time or sufficient justification for why self-reflection is needed in the first place. Yet, it’s that abundance that makes self-reflection all the more essential right now. In the following, we’ll take a look at what self-reflection is, why we all need it now more than ever, and the value it can bring into our lives.

What is Self-Reflection?

In the simplest terms, self-reflection is setting time aside to evaluate and give serious thought to your emotions, behavior, motivation, thoughts, perspective, and desires. It’s about going beyond the surface level to find the “why” behind these elements of ourselves and the experiences we have. The idea of self-reflection is to gain a more profound, rawer understanding of yourself. And for those unfamiliar, you’ll find that with that understanding comes empowerment and clarity that simply cannot be captured otherwise.

Today’s world is more advanced than it’s ever been and constantly reminds us of what’s out there and available to us. But within this environment can lie a trap. A trap that convinces us that the answers we need to the hardest questions are out in the world for us to find, rather than within ourselves waiting to be unveiled. With that being said, let’s dive into the reasons why self-reflection is more vital than it’s ever been.

Why Now?

Covid & the Climate of Uncertainty and Hostility 

We start with a somewhat obvious one: the present state of society. Over the last year and a half, we’ve all likely felt like we’ve been carrying extra weight around. The air of uncertainty combined with what seems to be growing polarization and hostility has placed a lot on us personally and societally. In times like these, in particular, self-reflection can be a great friend to us. It can help us stay grounded and sharpen our ability not to lose perspective. Just because you engage in self-reflection doesn’t mean the world will change or problems will go away, but it can certainly help in your ability to manage said problems and stay true to what brings you fulfillment in life.

The Modern, Digital Age

Let’s be clear; this piece is not intended to portray our modern advancement as a negative. There are certainly great benefits to it. However, there are legitimate downsides we’ve all likely experienced. Whether it be social media, the internet as a whole, the many gadgets we use, etc., the point is that there have never been more distractions in the world that make it incredibly hard to stay within ourselves. Every day, we’re constantly reminded of what else is out in the world, what others have that we don’t, and people’s perceptions of us. A failure to keep these reminders in check is a recipe for all kinds of negative mental repercussions. Self-reflection can help you in this regard. It’s an incredible tool for staying focused on what you have in life, what matters most to you, and understanding your true identity, no matter what others may think.

Mental Health Crisis

It’s no secret that mental health issues have become a national, if not a worldwide, concern. More and more young people report suffering from mental health problems, and of course, the issue has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And while we’ve evolved tremendously in our acceptance of mental health struggles, we still have a long way to go, particularly with helping people navigate these difficult times. Self-reflection is not a cure-all approach, but it certainly won’t hurt in managing mental health issues. As mentioned before, when done right, self-reflection ultimately can be empowering and fulfilling. And as we’ll see next, there’s a lot of value it can bring into your life, whether mental health has been a problem area or not.

The Value of Self-Reflection 

Tool for Learning & Growth

We naturally tend to believe we know ourselves well, which is a fair assumption. However, you’d be surprised how much you don’t know about yourself if you don’t self-reflect often. Not everything is always as it seems on the surface. Sometimes our emotions are driven by something else deep within ourselves, or perhaps our behavior was motivated by a force we had never considered before. We’re far more complicated creatures than we give ourselves credit for, and it can often be hard to keep up without taking the extra time to retrace and reconsider. Self-reflection opens up doors that perhaps have never been seen before, let alone opened. And with that knowledge comes the power to learn, evolve, and grow as a person.

Vessel for Self-Peace

This builds off that understanding touched on before. By having a more authentic conception of yourself, you can make better decisions and engage in behavior that you know will ultimately be rewarding to you. For example, not everything we enjoy doing is necessarily beneficial for us in the long run. Sometimes we engage in behavior that gives us what we need at the moment but leaves us empty in the long haul. It can be hard to truly realize what’s good for us and what’s not until we take that time to dive deep within. And once we do, we have more control over our ability to feel at peace with who we are, where we’re going, and what matters most to us in life.

Your Life GPS

Where those previous points lead you is here, a conceptualized roadmap for life. Now, let’s be clear, a big part of life is the unknown, taking chances, learning from experience, and simply “living.” However, most of us often have an overwhelming feeling that we have no idea where our life is going, what we want from it, and where to go next. And that’s precisely where self-reflection and that understanding of self can help. You’ll be able to better understand what fulfills you the most, what you want to get out of your time here, where you want to go next, and how you might be able to do that. Self-reflection will not give you all the answers or allow you to map your entire life step-by-step, nor should that be desired anyway; that’s what living is for. But it can help you on your journey towards getting those answers, learning from your experiences, growing as a person, and finding your purpose in life.

Conclusion

It’s important to know, value can only be experienced if you approach self-reflection with discipline, legitimate intent, and consistent action. Self-reflection also requires a willingness to be honest with yourself and possibly confront areas you may have been reluctant to in the past. But, what you get from self-reflection and how you do it is really just up to you. Below, I’ve included a few resources to help you get started. If you’re new to this, try different ones out and see what sticks for you. Don’t look at self-reflection as a daunting task; it’s meant to be helpful, not stressful. You have to find what brings the most value to you. And hopefully, this journey will leave you feeling empowered, more connected with yourself, and more clear on what you want from this life.

Resources to Get Started:

https://positivepsychology.com/introspection-self-reflection/

https://www.minimalismmadesimple.com/home/self-reflection/

https://www.wikihow.com/Self-Reflect

Top Five Barriers to Mental Health Treatment

Today, one in five people in the United States experience a mental health condition which is equivalent to approximately 40 million Americans, but only 41% of adults with a mental health condition actually receive treatment. For Mental Health Awareness Month, King’s University and Social Work Helper are working together to help raise awareness on mental health barriers and challenges many individuals face when contemplating mental health treatment.

When increased concerns about a mental health condition arise, friends, family and/or Google are often the first to be consulted. Varying responses from getting counseling to hospitalization may be suggested as the potential solution, but what roadblocks may be encountered before an intervention can be decided? There are many things to consider on the journey to mental wellness, but there are also several pitfalls to look out for.

1. Stigma

The unfortunate truth is that most people are terrified of being discriminated against in their employment or unjustly targeted by the police because of their mental health status. According to current data, individuals with a mental health condition are more likely to encounter law enforcement than receive professional treatment. Too often, the public’s education on mental illness is learned from misrepresented portrayals of mentally ill individuals as violent criminals by the media.

2. Refusal

Adult patients have the right to refuse treatment. This may become a major barrier and challenge for parents with adult children who need treatment. Current laws require an individual to be a danger to themselves or third party in order to qualify for an involuntary committal. Typically, commitment of a mental ill individual is avoided unless a determination has been made declaring them to be dangerous. Unfortunately, loved ones of an individual struggling with mental illness who have refused treatment have very limited options available to them.

3. Financial

The rising cost of prescription drugs, high co-pays and deductibles in addition to limited and uncovered mental health services may be the deciding factor in whether someone seeks treatment. According to a 2011 study in the journal Health Affairs, the United States spent 113 billion dollars on mental health treatment which was only 5.6% of national physical health-care related spending. Most importantly, the majority of those dollars went to prescription drug costs as the primary treatment for the mental health condition. Even though the Affordable Care Act has pushed the uninsured rate to an all time low, approximately 27.3 million Americans still are without insurance. Also, in surveys measuring the effectiveness of the ACA, responses suggest high deductibles and out of pocket costs still remain the biggest barrier preventing individuals from seeking mental health treatment.

4. Intervention

Some people may give up on pursuing treatment because they don’t believe therapy is working for them. Could it be possible the right type of therapy was not introduced to improve their mental health needs? It could happen. There may be several therapists and/or several medications tried before finding the right combination to yield the best results. When it comes to mental health treatment, there is no one size fits all treatment, and any wellness plan must be tailored to fit the needs of the individual seeking treatment in order to help them achieve the best outcomes. Before choosing a counselor or therapist, there are many factors to consider before making a decision such as their cultural background, spiritual philosophy, and competencies in order to increase the odds of a better fit.

5. Access

Even if the four previous mentioned barriers could be prevented, individuals experiencing a mental health crisis may be wait listed before they can get access to a mental health provider. According to U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, 60% of Americans live in a mental health provider shortage area because the mental healthcare system does not have enough providers to meet current demand. There are approximately 1,000 patients for every 1 provider, and the US needs to add approximately 10,000 providers by 2025 in order to make pace with the growing demand for services.

Licensed counselors, clinical social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists are desperately needed to begin closing the treatment area shortage gap. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “The APA Education Government Relations Office (GRO) continues to seek increased federal support for psychology education and training, particularly for psychologists who work with underserved populations” which includes a loan repayment option for early career psychologists. For more information on earning a psychology degree, visit King’s University Bachelor’s of Psychology Program.

The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

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Did you know that 1 in 4 American people suffer a mental illness?  That is an estimate of 56% of the population[2].  Creating awareness is a difficult task [5].  We make sure to fill one day or month with the “green ribbon.”  But do we really know what the green ribbon means? When there is awareness about mental health it eases identification and early treatment for these individuals [4].  These individuals could be our father, mother, son, daughter, neighbor, friend, or it could be ourselves.  Early intervention can help our loved one receive appropriate care.  As a result, recovery is faster [4].

If a loved one is experiencing some issues and you know for fact they need to see a professional, do you know how to access the service?  We found that out of 176 people, 50% did no access mental health services because they were unaware of how to [2].  Lack of access can be due to misinformation about where to go [2]. Mental illness cannot be treated by simple desire, treatment is necessary [4].  We found that in many cases people may not access these services because it is difficult due to cultural or language barriers [2].

Awareness also eliminates stigma for these people.  If we are aware of their limitations and strengths, stigma may disappear.  Let’s just say, your daughter was just diagnosed bipolar disorder.  Would you like those around you comment, “she is crazy, lock her up.” Stigma refers to the opinions and thoughts of the community [3]. Stigma shames the mentally ill.  Creates a community where minds are closed off and rejects acceptance of those who are “different.” Attitudes and behaviors move a community into either a positive or negative trend.  If there is a negative trend than the implications may cause a combination of denial and hatred [3].

Awareness can also create new improvements for the mentally ill. As there is more demand from the public, it can produce a flow of attention.  This attention can eventually result in great changes for the mentally ill.  It can lead to improvements on policy, research, and service development [6].  Let’s make this issue a priority because we have a high demand.  If we raise more awareness, the demands may increase and can result in more funding for our needs.

In addition, there is a great misconception for the mentally ill. Many think these people are lazy or just making it up.  There is also the attitude that these people are either crazy, possessed by demons, violent, out of control and unsafe.  These are negative labels that have been attached due to the lack of awareness.  Raising awareness can reduce misconceptions.  Imagine your daughter with bipolar disorder being described by these words.  How would this make you feel?  Why continue to live in a community where there is judgment, if we could promote awareness on the issue.

Mental health awareness should not only be for a day or two or even a month.  We must be informed about it because it can easily happen to someone close to us.  Community awareness for mental health reduces stigma. Mental health awareness increases the chances for early intervention, which can result in a fast recovery.  Awareness reduces negative adjectives that have been set to describe our people with a metal illness.

By raising awareness, mental health can now be seen as an illness.  These illnesses can be managed by treatment.  We should not isolate mental illness from the physical heath conditions, such as diabetes, blood pressure, or cancer [1].

Awareness is a form of education.  The more you know, the more power you have.  Knowledge is power.  This power can cause a positive effect in our community.  Awareness is key for understanding what mental health is and how families can receive the help they need. Public knowledge is important in accessing community resources.  Lack of awareness of mental health is not just “their” problem, it is our problem as a community.

Awareness does not just end here. Attend health fairs, resource fairs, read more, listen to it.  You could even get more information about the resources and services offered in Imperial Valley.  And overall pass it on.  Talk to a someone about this article and ask them to share it with someone else.  Let’s start a domino effect for awareness on mental health. Don’t be scared to talk about it. It’s hard work, but the power to reach and teach the community is well worth it [5].

References:

[1] Aferrigno. “What one update to national mental health policy would you like to see instituted in the next five years, and why?” IMHRO. N.D.Web. 22 July 2015.

 [2] Gonzalez, C. “Innovation Work Plan County Certification.” Imperial. 4 Nov 2014.  Web. 21 July 2015.

[3] Mental Health News. “Mental/Behavioral Health” Network of Care. N.D. Web. 22 July 2015.

[4] NAMI. “What is Mental Illness: Mental Illness Facts.” NAMI. N.D. Web. 21 July 2015.

[5] Serani, D. “The Importance of Health Awareness Days.” Psychology Today. 6 Oct 2013. Web. 20 July 2015.

[6] World Health Organization. “Advocacy for Mental Health.” WHO. 2003. Web. 21 July 2015.

Authors: 

Urias, Aday, BSW & MSW Student

Fuentes, Dora, BSW & MSW Student

Acosta, Guadalupe, BSW & MSW Student

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