Hope is a powerful healer for mental health

In times when everything seems bleak and daunting, and negative or intrusive thoughts crush any positive ones, the human mind can become a prison. Hope is hard to see in the depths of despair; however, there is light to be found as mental health treatment options offer more hope than ever – even for people with treatment-resistant disorders.

“When things feel like they’re not going well, or you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling, it is relatively common to feel hopeless and that things will never get better. It may feel like you will never be free,” says Megan Hosking, Netcare Akeso’s crisis line and marketing manager.

“Endless research, both historic and ongoing, points to the benefit of hope in human experience. Since time immemorial, hope has repeatedly been identified as an integral part of mental health recovery, resilience, adaptation and personal well-being.

“Without hope, life can seem meaningless and dark thoughts are more likely to take hold. Having optimism for the future can be a powerful antidote in managing anxiety, trauma and depression. Hope has even been shown to help reduce the intensity of adverse life events when they occur, and it is a protective factor against harmful and suicidal thoughts.

“There are ways to break free from feeling overwhelmed and despairing, and experience hope again to see your world through fresh eyes – as impossible as that may sound. Mental health professionals understand how hopelessness feels, and there are various therapeutic tools that can help you get to a place where you can see a way forward and find hope.”

Hosking points out that when a person feels hopeful, they are more likely to engage in healthy behaviours, which helps improve overall well-being, too. It is also important to bear in mind that mental health recovery is an ongoing journey, and one should expect to experience both good and bad days.

“It can be particularly challenging if you have been seeking help and it feels like you are not seeing any noticeable improvement in your symptoms, functioning or thoughts. If you are feeling stuck, revisiting your basic coping skills can be helpful, and regular follow-up appointments with your doctor or therapist are recommended.

“Sometimes, a new approach – or a combined one – may be needed. For instance, in approximately 30% of people experiencing major depressive disorder, conventional treatments may not show the desired effect, and other options may need to be explored with your treating mental health professional or doctor.

“The good news is that psychiatry and mental health treatments are constantly evolving to provide hope through improving existing treatment options and introducing new ones ranging from medication adjustments, new psychotherapy approaches, somatic or brain stimulation therapies, and novel therapies,” she says.

“Today, there are neuropsychological interventions focused on ‘rewiring’ the brain – and neuroplasticity, which empowers us to literally change the way we think and experience the world. Like any pharmacological treatment, these should only be undertaken with the direction and supervision of a trained and registered mental health professional.”

Once treatment begins, results may take time. Therapy can often feel uncomfortable for a period as you are pushed to challenge old beliefs, work through difficult experiences, and move toward change.

“Given the uniqueness of each person’s experience, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. It is important to not lose hope before you find the right balance or approach to suit you. Keep working with your mental health professionals, communicate openly with them, and continue striving for a solution.

“Support is an essential part of a successful mental health journey, whether from professionals, peers or loved ones. Ongoing support can help you gain a sense of community, feel more connected, and navigate your journey alongside people who understand or might have had similar experiences.

“You, in turn, may become a beacon of hope for someone else who needs that kind of support one day,” Hosking says.

Netcare Akeso operates a network of private inpatient mental health facilities and is part of the Netcare Group. Netcare Akeso provides individual, integrated and family oriented treatment in specialised inpatient treatment facilities, as well as certain outpatient services, for a range of psychiatric, psychological and substance use conditions.

In the event of a psychological crisis, call 0861 435 787, 24 hours a day, for emergency support. Psychiatrist consultations can be made through Netcare appointmed™, online or by calling 0861 555 565.

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