Mental Health: Maintenance vs. Intervention



The attention to mental health has increased in importance in recent years as more people are opening up about their struggles. 47 million Americans, 19% of the country’s adult population, are suffering from a mental illness, making conversations surrounding them essential to bettering society’s well-being. There are two main ways people can deal with mental health – maintenance and intervention.


It is first important to differentiate the two. Maintenance refers to constantly caring for your mental health to impede any issues and illnesses from developing. Intervention, on the other hand, refers to practices that aim to treat and improve mental health. But there is so much more to the two concepts.


Maintenance


Caring for mental health doesn’t just apply to people that have been diagnosed with illnesses and disorders. People take steps to prevent themselves from getting sick by staying as healthy as possible and the same can be done for an individual’s psychological well-being. This form of preventive care can be done in a multitude of ways such as relieving stress, surrounding yourself with caring people, and trying to live more positively.


For example, WebMD explains how stress management is important in stopping serious related illnesses from developing like depression, anxiety, and even psychosis. Exercising can be a great way for maintaining mental health as it has been proven to promote the production of endorphins and endocannabinoids – hormones that regulate happiness and promote relaxation. Having a good diet can also be a way of maintaining good psychological wellness as food plays a big role in leveling your mood and disposition. Too much sugar and carbohydrates will make your energy fluctuate, leaving you highly irritable when you’ve come down from a sugar high.


Maintenance also means not waiting until you are at your breaking point to seek help. The misconception that something has to be wrong before you speak to a therapist or counselor can be damaging. Going to therapy regularly is also a helpful practice as this helps you work through your emotions and give you a safe space to talk about your feelings. This also helps you understand the root causes of many of your problems, aiding you in finding effective yet healthy coping mechanisms.

It’s clear that when it comes to maintaining good mental well-being, many of the strategies boil down to lifestyle choices. Some conditions are genetic and may not be preventable, like schizophrenia, ADHD, and BPD so this form of care may not be a solution. But with many mood, anxiety, and stress disorders, maintenance can be the key to preventing individuals from developing these conditions.

Intervention

The need for intervention only arises when people are showing signs that they need help. This form of care is mostly for those who are already diagnosed with a mental health condition that has been hindering them from functioning normally. Many intervention methods are done through the help of a healthcare professional that has a psychology specialty like registered therapists or psychiatrists. A great example of intervention is medication. Those with depression are often prescribed medicines like Zoloft and Fluoxetine as they boost serotonin production in the brain, stabilizing mood and preventing anxious tendencies. For genetic cases like ADHD, Ritalin and Adderall are common prescriptions as these pills help control impulses through dopamine – a hormone essential for motivation and focus. It is best to seek treatment earlier than later as many mental illnesses can worsen without intervention. For example, those with schizophrenia may experience increasingly worse symptoms if professional help is not implemented early on. Those who go untreated may experience psychosis – when their perceptions and thoughts get muddled, making them unable to function properly and go on with life normally. This can lead to a need for hospitalization and further observation from medical professionals to properly treat the symptom, which may require hospitalization. Not paying attention to mental health conditions can also lead to poor physical health. The increase in stress can cause lower immunity, and bump up the likelihood of heart conditions, possibly pushing people to develop harmful tendencies (such as self-harming). Those whose conditions rely on being medicated may suffer from withdrawals if they are unable to take their usual drugs. This can manifest as heightened symptoms like increased anxiety, insomnia, and even tachycardia. Many factors may contribute to not being able to seek care, from lacking the funds to the stigma surrounding mental health. For those who may not have access to professional care, online communities and resources have been a big help in terms of intervention. The Department of Health and Human Services lists a few organizations, such as Active Minds and The Jed Foundation, that have provided mental health services to many underserved communities and demographics. Average citizens are also doing their part in trying to help those in need by speaking up for them and joining their plight for support. A guide to social media activism by Maryville University highlights how it has helped grow social issues become more visible. This includes mental health and continues to push for increased accessibility for professional care. As more people speak out on important issues that contribute to psychological distress like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, governing bodies are pressured to make intervention measures more obtainable to those who need them. Which is Better?

It is acknowledged that prevention is always better than having to look for a cure. As noted by public reform activist Fiachra Kennedy, having policies and practices in place to maintain the well-being of society is far more effective than having to create intervention strategies. Maintaining good mental health is better than waiting for it to worsen, which could lead to the development of psychological conditions. However, mental health issues are sometimes unavoidable. This is why interventions are always there to be used by the people who need them the most. Opening more conversations regarding mental health and pushing for better accessibility is the answer to making intervention much more effective.


Penned by Minerva Kate Elton (2022)

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