Feature: Every Aspect of Our Health Deserves Attention

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Feature: Every Aspect of Our Health Deserves Attention

two women posing together

By Shane’a Thomas, LICSW, LCSW-C

 

Physical, sexual, and mental health within the queer community

two women posing together

By Shane’a Thomas, LICSW, LCSW-C

If someone asked you how you take care of your physical health, what would you say? Working out would probably be a popular answer. Other responses might be drinking lots of water; making sure that you are taking your vitamins and supplements; and, probably, the age-old advice of making sure that you eat all of your vegetables.

What about your sexual health? This one’s a little bit harder to answer without cringing or blushing, right? Maybe some answers would be having sex, or making sure you go to your regular gynecologist appointments.

And, what about your mental health? Going to a therapist might be the first (and only) answer for some people, but there are so many more options to taking care of yourself!

Mental Health: Separate the Facts From the Misconceptions
What exactly do we mean when we talk about “mental health”? Mental health speaks to our overall cognitive and emotional well-being. It also concerns how these experiences affect the way that we live and behave toward ourselves and other people.

Saying that we need assistance with our personal issues; or with frustration, disappointment, sadness, grief, or pain; or with the feeling of being overwhelmed may first be seen through the lens of how others view mental health. When you empower yourself to seek help, you are taking a big brave step.

On the other hand, tragedies such as the Virginia Tech Massacre and the Sandy Hook and Navy Yard shootings have increased the tendency for people to link violence and aggressive behavior and mental health. This leads to questions about the “mental health status” of these shooters and, in turn, their portrayal as monsters. This can also lead to the assumption that people with serious mental health statuses are dangerous, impulsive, and need to be locked up—not treated, or treated with dignity. And, this partly feeds into a fear of getting well. Who wants to be seen as “crazy” or have people believe that “something is wrong with you”? No one. Consequently, you tend to bury your worries, fears, and concerns and find maladaptive ways to cope.

Maladaptive behavior refers to types of behaviors that inhibit a person’s ability to adjust to particular situations, whether positive or negative. Such behavior can affect the way that you interact with friends, within your job, socially, or emotionally. For example, if you avoid speaking about the issues that have affected you the most, then you might adapt such coping behaviors as drinking, smoking, or doing drugs. These impulsive behaviors only increase frustration and may even affect your professional and educational success.

Ignoring thoughts, feelings, or experiences related to sexual trauma or physical, verbal, and emotional abuse only works temporarily and shows up in other aspects of yourself and your relationships. Taking care of your mental health is about building a “team of you” to prepare for old wounds to open—and to learn how to heal from them.

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