Over the past eight years, Kate has cemented her platform through her role in the royal family – mental health awareness. For many years, through her patronages, support for organization, public speeches, and shared personal experiences, the Duchess of Cambridge has pushed the narrative surrounding mental wellbeing into the spotlight
In a recent profile in Vanity Fair, Kate was lauded at the “most important person in the world” raising awareness for mental wellbeing, especially in children. Professor Peter Fonagy, OBE, FBA, FAcSS, FMedSci, is one of the world’s leading clinical psychoanalysts, and he praised the Duchess, stating that “[Kate] has had a huge role in raising the national awareness in the mental health of children. As far as we are concerned she’s the most important woman doing this in the world right now. To the millions of children who have been suffering in silence, she is their voice.”
Kate’s focus lately has been maternal mental health and the mental wellbeing of children, but the programs supported by the Duchess’ spearheaded Heads Together campaign cover a lifetime’s range of ages and situations. Truly, there is no bad time to check in on our own mental wellbeing, and no time like the present. We chatted with New York-Based psychotherapist Meagan McGinty about the current climate of mental health, when to get help, and how to do a little self-care at home. Read on for her insights:
Please note: this is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek advice from your medical provider with any questions or concerns you may have.
Why is there a sudden surge in mental health awareness? What is (finally) driving this larger conversation into the spotlight?
I think mental health awareness is gaining steam right now for a few reasons; first being that many athletes, celebrities and individuals in the public eye have come forward and admitted they have struggled or dealt with mental health issues. Many have also expressed how therapy helped them cope. I think when people we look up to, admire or assume have it all, share that they had struggles too and sought help, it provides hope and helps to normalize the experience. I also think the younger generation is more educated on mental health than previous generations and are more likely to talk about it and talk about going to therapy. While we are moving in the right direction the conversation is really just beginning and we need to keep it up.
What are some unexpected signs that indicate someone may benefit from speaking to a mental health professional?
Most people can benefit from therapy at least one point in their lives, we all have blind spots and patterns that keep us stuck and removed from where we went to be. Whether that involves romantic relationships, family, friends, career or personal goals. By understanding our own blind spots and patterns we can then create new patterns that get us to where we want to be. The majority of people I work with are young professionals just trying to understand themselves better.
Therapy can also be helpful when we are feeling sad, overwhelmed, stuck, dealing with infertility, when we are avoiding things out of fear, when we want to build our confidence and self-esteem, when we have lost people important to us and during any life transition (break ups, becoming a parent, losing a job).
Is there ever a problem that is “too small” to talk about with a mental health professional?
This actually comes up in sessions and one thing I always tell my clients is to remember everything is relative. If the problem matters to you then it’s important and that’s all that matters. Therapy is a judgement free zone and if it’s on your mind it can be talked about. What is traumatic to one person may not be to the next and that’s okay! Your experience is valid and relief can come from talking about it.
What is the benefit of speaking to a mental health professional, versus trying to “handle it ourselves”?
We all have toolboxes filled with life long learned coping skills. Sometimes we face something that taps out our coping skills and we need to learn new ones, therapy is a great way to learn new coping skills or replace ones that no longer serve us.
A therapist through active listening can also help us make connections between things that may be hard to see on our own.
One thing I find really powerful is that our thoughts are so powerful and when they are just floating around our heads they seem so believable! Sometimes when we verbalize our thoughts, as we say them out loud it occurs to us we don’t actually believe them or need that thought. We can then understand the thought and reframe it to a more realistic one. This can also happen when the therapist reflects our thought back to us.
What are some self-care habits we can do at home to promote a healthy mental wellbeing?
Self-care is really personal, it can involve anything that fills us up and helps us get into a state of flow. For someone that may mean a peaceful yoga class while for someone else it may mean a high intensity workout. It could also mean meditation, reading, bubble baths, journaling, FaceTime with friend/family member, going for a hike, playing with pets, cooking, coloring or creating something. The options are endless. One thing to keep in mind is to reflect on the things that do fill you up and bring you joy, things that help you reconnect with yourself. Reflect on them and keep a list of them! Unfortunately the first thing that tends to go when we are stressed and overwhelmed is our self-care and that’s when we need it the most. By having a go to list to reference you don’t need to think about it, you can just pick something from the list that seems manageable for that day and enjoy!
Meagan McGinty is a Greater New York area counselor/LMHC specializing in preteen, adolescent, adult, and couples therapy. Her varied experiences include Cognitive Behavioral and Psychodynamic psychology. To learn more about her services, please visit her profile here.