Emotional health vs Physical health
Why is our physical health emphasized as more important than our emotional (mental) health? We suffer from emotional injury much more often than we suffer physical injury.

We are often bombarded with adverts encouraging us to focus on our physical health. We are always told to go to the Doctor to get regular health checkups. Although our physical health is important, we also need to be reminded of keeping our emotional health in check.

Although people are becoming more aware of emotional health and its implications, unfortunately there is still a stigma attached to obtaining support for emotional health.

Now is the time to close the gap and make our physical and emotional health more equal. Everybody has emotional health and everybody needs to keep it in check. With ‘World Mental Health Day’ coming up on the 10th October, we need more than ever to be more informed about what mental health entails.

When we think of mental health, we usually hear about it in the context of a problem. The problem could be that someone is very stressed at work or someone is experiencing anxiety or someone has depression, which debilitates their functioning. Adolescence and adults is the main age demographic in which mental health is usually discussed. We don’t really hear about mental health in children and how it can affect them.

This brings us to the question: When does Mental Health begin?

Mental health begins at birth. The way babies are held, talked to and cared for teaches them about their identity and about how they are valued. This profoundly shapes who they will become. The first days, months, and years of life are when the adults who care for them can truly promote strong, positive mental wellness.

Parents become attuned to their child’s cues and vice versa. This is a very important part of emotional development. The baby learns to communicate her needs and the parents learn to reciprocate. This forms the bond of attachment. Having a strong attachment bond allows the child to have a foundation, which helps them develop emotional and social wellbeing. This helps develop the child’s emotional health.

Caregivers can build on the child’s emotional health by providing loving and positive interactions from an early age. Research shows that this type of interaction between parents and babies, allows for the positive shaping of babies’ brains, which can have long-term effects on their ability to develop social and academic competence.

Caregivers are encouraged to listen to and try to understand why their child is behaving the way she does. Engage on a positive level by providing unconditional love and active engagement. The more we have an understanding of what our child needs, the more the child will feel validated and we will be in a better position to be able to help meet their needs.

Children need to feel connected in order to develop positive emotional health. By showing your child that their concerns matter to you (through active listening and engagement), will help them feel validated and will let them know that it is ok to ask for help when they need it.

Be cognizant of the fact that there will always be challenges and disappointments that a child has to face. This is a natural part of growth. A child needs to make mistakes and experience disappointment in order for them to learn. By modeling how you manage stress and problem solve your own challenges, your child will learn better ways of coping. Also, by teaching your children strategies that can help them manage and regulate their own emotions, you’re teaching them invaluable ways to also learn to trust themselves and build confidence in their ability to help themselves. This will ultimately build their self-esteem and resilience.

The best gift a caregiver can give their child is confidence to believe in themselves and the foundation to develop resilience so that they bounce back after each time they fall.

Now that we know mental health begins in infants, it places importance on building a foundation for our child. Although it starts there, it is important to keep regular emotional health checks in order to keep thriving. As caregivers, we are in a position to help our child develop a good foundation of positive emotional health, but remember it is always a work in progress. We need to be consistent in providing the opportunities to keep developing emotional health. This will ultimately help that child recognize the importance for managing their own emotional health.

Becoming more proactive and taking care of our emotional health needs before they become debilitating, will help us develop emotional resilience. This will allow us to flourish and have more fulfilling lives as we move through the stages from infant to child to adolescent to adult.

Sharon Draper is a Psychologist who works from a person-centred approach. She has experience working with many people in a variety of settings. She provides a professional yet warm environment that enables the client to feel safe and their voice heard. She is a caring therapist who views her clients holistically while showing respect. She believes in the importance of building rapport and listening to each client’s individual needs. She feels it is a privilege to work with clients and uses different techniques suited to each unique client. These include evidence-based approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, narrative therapy, psychodynamic therapy and family systems and play therapy.

Sharon is passionate about working with clients in a collaborative way to help empower them to work towards a more balanced life. She believes therapy can provide clients with practical skills when dealing with difficult aspects of their lives as well as help them develop a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

Sharon also has much experience working with children and parents. She understands family systems and approaches families with respect and empathy.

You can follow Sharon on her Facebook page or, if you would like to book an appointment with Sharon, please email her on info@sharondraper.com.au