Why Mental Health Skills Are Life Skills

Mental health skills are fundamental to living a fulfilling, healthy life, and it’s time for us to start thinking of them as life skills.

While growing up, children learn how to navigate the world by learning life skills that help individuals effectively handle several aspects of personal life and interpersonal relationships. Some examples of life skills include time management, financial management, communication, organisation, making decisions, good manners, and more. 


Mental health skills are just as essential – if not more so – as the ones above. These are skills that enable us to cope with the mental and emotional challenges we encounter while navigating the world. Examples include managing moods, gaining and maintaining self-confidence, coping with tough situations, self-care, and more. 


What makes mental health skills necessary as life skills?


Mental health skills and life skills both:


Are universal: All human beings face situations that cause mental health struggles. Just as life skills are necessary to navigate the basics of living and thriving in society, mental health skills are necessary for us all to understand and navigate our minds. 


Are learnable: No one comes into this world knowing the intricacies of human society or mastery over their own inner world. Life skills and mental health skills are both learnable via observation, training, and practice.


Have the same goal: Life skills and mental health skills both help people become self-reliant as they navigate the world and live a life that is aligned to their needs and goals. 


Aid personal development: Life skills and mental health skills both prioritise personal development in order to improve people’s well-being and interpersonal relationships. 


Require self-awareness: Learning life skills and mental health skills first require an individual to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. 


Require maintenance: Just as the world we live in constantly changes, the skills required to navigate the world also changes with it. Constant learning and practice is necessary to keep up with both life skills and mental health skills. 


Why are life skills a challenge for people with mental health struggles 


While life skills are a universal necessity, people with mental struggles may find it harder to learn and implement these skills. Such problems occur due to the below reasons. 


Cognitive impairment: People living with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and more may face cognitive struggles like difficulty concentrating, remembering, and processing information. This can slow down the formation of critical life skills. Even people struggling through bouts of anxious or depressive feelings that don’t qualify as diagnosed conditions may face these cognitive challenges, making life skills difficult to implement.


Emotional dysregulation: People with mental health struggles often find it hard to manage their emotions. The inability to manage emotions, especially in public situations, can lead to poor communication and interpersonal skills. 


Motivation: Losing motivation to engage with human society is an obstacle that prevents mentally unwell people from learning life skills. Motivation is often a particular challenge for people living with depressive feelings.


Stigma: Discrimination against people with mental illnesses or struggles can prevent access to observing and learning life skills from interpersonal interactions. 


Lack of resources: People struggling through poverty, lack of shelter, food insecurity, or other challenging circumstances may be so focused on survival that their ability to use life skills and/or mental health skills, let alone update them, may be impaired.


How can people with mental health struggles pick up life and mental health skills?


For people with mental health concerns, picking up life skills and mental health skills is harder if done alone. Seeking help from external resources can ease how overwhelming learning may seem. 


Therapy: The goal of therapy is to help a person understand their thoughts and emotions better and to build the mental health skills that enable them to self-manage their challenges. A therapist can draw from a wide variety of strategies and skills to personalise a ‘toolkit’ of skills for each patient navigating life.


Support groups: In such groups, people who have the same struggles help each other by offering different types of insights and tips to solve a shared problem. 


Skill classes: In some cases, signing up for a skill class, like those for cooking, sewing, budgeting, and more, can help people to pick up life skills that they find hard to practise on their own. This may be particularly helpful for people who struggle with depressive feelings, which can make self-care and self-maintenance difficult.


Books and online resources:  In other instances, people may find it hard to access therapy or support groups due to a variety of reasons. Seeking help from digital self-therapy formats and self-help books can help them learn at their own pace. 


Family and friends: Supportive family members and friends may be able to assist one’s learning process by giving advice or helping one practise skills together.


Rehabilitation programmes: Such programs help people living with substance abuse disorders develop critical life and mental health skills, such as social skills, methods to seek employment, job training, and more. 

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