27 October 2021, Victoria, Australia: Every October marks the significance of World Mental Health Awareness Month, purposed to raise awareness about mental health concerns globally and mobilise efforts to support mental health. Positive Breakthroughs, an executive coaching and counselling service urges the general public to seek professional help beyond this awareness month to cope with on-going mental health anxieties that could be exacerbated further in this pandemic and post-lockdown.
The Final Report Volume 1: A new approach to mental health and wellbeing in Victoria by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System states that “An estimated 1,147,000 people in Victoria are likely to experience some level of mental illness or psychological distress at some point in 2020–21.” The Melbourne-based company wants Australians to realise a critical factor — being open to professional help is an important step to recovery.
Positive Breakthroughs founder and entrepreneur Liza Pavlakos said, “We have to start normalising conversations about mental health and make it easy for people to seek professional help. Globally, the number of people dealing with major depressive disorder has increased by 27% and anxiety disorder, 25%. That’s an estimated 53 million globally and 76 million additional cases of people suffering from anxiety (Source: The Lancet, Oct 2021). It’s much more than listening to people’s answers but just offering to listen.
Allowing people to feel the feelings they are feeling with zero judgement is essential. People need to feel safe and have someone they trust to help them with what they are going through. Apart from listening, we should try to be as uplifting and understanding as possible too. Respect, compassion, and empathy, these values are what we all deserve as human beings,” Pavlakos added.
Every mental health disorder requires its unique treatment. If someone is feeling overwhelmed at work or needs to navigate tricky situations with their boss, they should seek the expertise of an executive coach. Feelings of confusion about life? A life coach would work best. For medication-related matters, see a clinical psychologist and psychiatrist. Sometimes, it could even be a combination of a few, as needed.
When it comes to professional help, it usually involves looking at the brain and chemicals such as Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid serving as the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter between nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. GABA also plays a role in how humans experience fear, anxiety, and stress. With proper GABA activity levels adjusted, it is said to reduce anxiety disorders and help repair the brain even with inflicted trauma.
A medical review by Wendie Trubow, M.D., MBA from Tufts University School of Medicine, discusses a small study conducted by researchers where they had three groups of participants, one consuming distilled water, another, distilled water with L-theanine (a calming compound in green tea), and the last group consumed distilled water with a natural form of GABA (PharmaGABA). All participants had their brain waves measured with an electroencephalogram (EEG) test, and the results — GABA helped participants increase their alpha brainwaves (typically generated in a relaxed state) compared to L-theanine or water. GABA’s role in balancing out the excitatory effects of glutamine is said to help keep feelings of stress in check.
In support of this, the expert opinion held by Positive Breakthroughs is making sure their clients understand that maintaining healthy GABA levels is essential. For instance, regular and excessive alcohol intake overstimulates GABA pathways and desensitises GABA receptors thereby leading to intrusive thoughts, persistent worries; ultimately, depression and anxiety instead of reducing it. Hence, one aspect of recovery involves dietary changes, consuming foods rich in glutamic acid such as soy proteins, citrus fruits, lentil beans, shrimp, halibut, just to name a few.
Although this week marks the end of Mental Health Awareness month, it is only the beginning for many to focus on and continue looking after their mental health. The strain of the pandemic last year and ongoing challenges have impacted many adults and children in many ways, but there’s hope and healthy ways to manage it well.
The recovery process of any mental health disorder is a journey. “With the work we do at Positive Breakthroughs, we believe that people can change their narrative as we slowly emerge out of lockdown and with the spike in COVID-19 cases, especially this month when companies and leaders are actively championing such an important cause. There is dignity in mental health, and there is help to whoever needs it,” concluded Pavlakos.
Founder of Positive Breakthroughs, Liza Pavlakos, partners a team of experienced chartered psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors, and coaches who will commit to offering therapy to everyone.
Liza is the winner of the Toastmasters International Golden Gavel Award for 2021. She was also recognised as one of the Top Female Speakers in the World in 2020 and has been featured on CNN, BBC, and other media outlets worldwide.
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