Hesperian Health Guides
Ways to Improve Your Community’s Mental Health
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Identify those who are at risk for mental health problems. Women are at risk if they have:
- had mental health problems in the past.
- lost family members or are separated from their families.
- witnessed violence or have violent partners.
- little social support.
Look for other behaviors that may indicate mental health problems. If you suspect that someone has a mental health problem, get to know her better. Listen to what other people are saying about her behavior and the ways she has changed. Since mental health problems often have roots in the family or community, think about how these may contribute to the problem.
Build on a woman’s strengths. Every woman has developed ways of coping with everyday problems. Help a woman identify the positive ways she has dealt with problems in the past and how she might use these strengths in her present situation.
Work within a woman’s traditions and culture. Every community has traditional ways of dealing with mental health problems, such as prayer and ritual. These practices are not always helpful, but they should always be considered and used as much as possible. Try to learn as much as you can about a woman’s traditions and how they may be a source of strength for her. Anything that helps a woman recognize or give meaning to her experience can help her mental health.
Remember that there are no quick solutions to mental health problems. Beware of anyone who promises this.
The most important part of any treatment is to make the woman feel supported and cared for. Try to involve her family and friends in the treatment.
Ask for help when you need it. If you do not have experience with a mental health problem, try to talk to a trained mental health worker who does. Listening to other people’s mental health problems can make you feel burdened, especially if you listen to a lot of people. Watch yourself to see if you are feeling pressured, if you are losing interest in helping others, or if you get irritable or angry easily. These are signs that you are making other people’s problems your own. Ask for help, and try to get more rest and relaxation so you can work effectively.