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BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

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10th October 2012 - World Mental Health Day

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Wednesday 10th October has been designated by World Health Organisation (WHO) as World Mental Health Day.  First acknowledged ten years ago, the title for this year’s Mental Health Day is ‘Depression – A Global Crisis’.  It is an interesting heading although it does sound as though the title may belong more to an announcement from the World Trade Organisation than the WHO.

Some may wonder if ‘Depression - a Global Crisis’ is a comment about therapeutic concerns or alternatively macro-economic issues. It certainly prompts my thoughts to turn from reflecting on individual issues of emotional dysfunction to broader concepts.  I am reminded of the Great Depression although we know that referred to the economic situation of the nineteen thirties rather than to some sense of collective mental gloom.

Of course the current worldwide economic slowdown does have the potential to impact on the wellbeing of many of us. Unemployment both long term and short term, can have a debilitating effect on individuals. Concerns around economic insecurity can foster anxiety with regard to fear of possible job losses if not for ourselves, then for spouses, friends or children.   That type of insecurity may result in increasing stress and pressure which can in turn lead for some people to some form of emotional dysfunction including depression. 

Nevertheless any reference to the global economic issues as one source of general depression would suggest a causality which clearly goes far beyond our personal control. It alludes to a set of macro circumstances on which we as individuals cannot impact.  Although I may wonder about the resilience of certain European economies there is relatively little I can do directly to alter the path of those economies. I may also be apprehensive about just how robust some of our financial institutions are but as a single individual, I can do little to affect the decisions taken in the boardrooms of powerhouses in say the City or Wall Street, or the private banks in the BahnhoffeStrasse in Zurich.

If I am not able to do much about the global economic crisis I can from my counselling room in Basingstoke in North Hampshire, at least encourage individuals to consider their own emotional well-being, whatever the strains and stresses of everyday life.  The reality is that whether our personal economic circumstances are on the rise or fall, we will always have personal challenges to face.  The way in which we deal with those challenges is more likely to reflect our overall feelings of emotional robustness and resilience than our economic situation.

Powerful and disturbing emotions such as anger, guilt, shame and fear are likely to emerge from interactions with others in the past, present or future. We may continually replay certain situations and question how we have been with those around us, whether at home, at work or in social situations; and it is often these continual replays and the response to those questions, which causes the internal angst and worry that can be disturbing to us.

That in turn suggests that techniques which can help us deal with emotional challenges, perhaps elements of CBT or Solution Focussed Therapy, or looking more deeply into our internal world with approaches such as psychodynamic work, may be of more benefit to us in times of emotional turmoil than a sudden rise in global economic activity.

A strong sense financial wellbeing can of course help us to feel good about ourselves. We know from research that those suffering financial hardship are indeed more likely to suffer depression than those with plenty. Nevertheless some lottery winners have also been quick to acknowledge that material windfalls were not enough and that sudden wealth did not provide all the answers.  In his book ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’, Jonathan Haidt suggests that ‘Happiness come from Between’. He talks of the importance of   ‘……striving to get the right relationship between yourself and others…’

Perhaps on reflection we can agree that economic wellbeing and a robust sense of self with supportive relationships are both important for good emotional health.  Despite the rather wishful comments of certain politicians it does seem as though boom and bust and the economic cycle will always be with us. That means we will inevitably encounter occasional concerns about our economic security.

An intermittent period of economic depression may be unavoidable but we should feel more confident of finding a way to successfully deal with a personal bout of the blues – whether that is achieved through our own efforts or with the support of counsellor or therapist. We should always keep a focus on our sense of wellbeing and be prepared to take action if that starts to falter.  

World Mental Health Day on Wednesday 10th October is a reminder that our emotional health index is far more important to us than the FT 100 Index or those other regular pronouncements on Global economic activity.  A global crisis or an economic depression does not mean that we should have to endure a personal state of emotional depression.  We can take action to help ourselves if we wish to.


Geoff Boutle



Geoff Boutle

added on 5th October 2012

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