As the pandemic continues, so does the concern for mental health. In this article, I discuss the 8 Ways Psychology can Save Lives through detection, help and prevention. This article is for information purposes only, and is not intended for diagnosing or treating any condition. Please reach out to a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional if you are struggling.
1. Understanding Yourself
Psychology saves lives by helping us understand our thoughts, our motives, and behaviours. For example, social psychology allows us to see the reasons for actions in the presence of others; evolutionary psychology may help us understand the causes of our fears and anxiety.
However, psychology also gives us the ability evaluate our behaviours, enabling us to spot certain symptoms that may be detrimental to our wellbeing. For example, especially during the pandemic, many institutions have highlighted the symptoms of depression (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual): low mood, insomnia, excessive weight gain/loss etc.
This is important as it allows us to identify symptoms that one may have, allowing us to seek immediate help if needed. It is also particularly important for teenagers around the age of 15, as this is quoted as the age for the onset of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) (Lewinsohn, Clarke, Seeley & Rohde, 1994). An understanding of psychology may allow us to identify, within ourselves, the difference in work stress and depression.
2. Understanding others
Not only does psychology help us understand ourselves, but it also allows us to understand others’ actions and behaviours. This could be important in identifying those suffering from mental disorders.
For instance, studies have found that an understanding of mental health can be gained through the mass media, as it functions as an important source of information regarding mental health and cultivates public perceptions of depression and its sufferers (Klin & Lemish, 2008).
Furthermore, with an understanding of others, this prevents us from acting as stressors. Psychology informs us of the problems that those suffering from various mental disorders may have. For instance, Baron-Cohen (1995) suggests that those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have trouble reading mental states. Thus, with this knowledge, we may be able to behave in ways that accommodate to them.
3. Help and Therapies
Once we can understand ourselves and/or others, it is possible for us to seek or provide help to the best of our abilities.
As written on Psychology Today, Riggio (2016) suggests that learning about emotional intelligence or non-verbal communication enables us to focus on subtle, unspoken cues in others. Even though we may not have the capacity to provide them with professional advice, we can provide a listening ear to those who require it, thus connecting with them in a deep, emotional level.
Moreover, those who are able to identify their symptoms may choose to seek professional help from therapists. An understanding of psychology and mental health may help in choosing therapies that are best suited for the individual.
4. Self-Love and Self-Esteem
Studies have found that depression and anxiety are strongly associated with low self-esteem. To prevent this, a good amount of self-love and self-care is needed as this can help to improve the overall confidence in oneself.
According to Medical News Today, self-love helps to establish resilience when facing adversity, enabling one to recover quickly from separations and traumas, also, helping us to better cope with embarrassment or failure.
Sbarra et al. (2012) suggests that the construct of self-love encompasses three components: self-kindness, the recognition of one’s place in shared humanity and mindfulness. Most of which can be achieved through Germer and Neff’s (2019) mindfully trained self-compassion program which entails a range of meditations such as ‘loving-kindness meditation’, ‘affection breathing’, ‘informal practices for use in daily life’ and ‘self-compassionate letter writing’.
5. Understanding and Maintaining Relationships
The study of psychology also provides us with knowledge and understanding of professional, personal, and family relationships. All of which are essential for better wellbeing.
In an article written by Eckel (2019) for Psychology Today, it is identified that in healthy relationships, our partners see us more positively than anyone else, including ourselves. Such a relationship can help with personal growth, allowing us to strive to be the best version of ourselves. (Whitbourne, 2019), known as the Michelangelo Effect.
6. Stressors in the Environment: What You Can Do For Yourself
Psychology allows us to understand how our surrounding and environment can affect our mental wellbeing.
For instance, Glass and Singer (1972) found that loud noises, the level of unpredictability and perceived control over a situation can act as stressors, causing task performance to decrease. Therefore, suggesting that such stressors such as noises can be avoided if necessary and if circumstances allow it.
Overcrowding may, too, act as a stressor from the environment as it leads to higher stress in people. For example, although it was an observation on animals, Christian, Flyger and Davis (1960) suggested that the death of 60% of Sika deers on Sika Island in 1958 was a result of sustained high levels of arousal due to overcrowding. This can be implicated in the lifestyle of humans as crowded situations do tend to impact negatively on human behaviour and mental wellbeing.
7. Stressors in the Workplace: What Others Can Do
Besides identifying stressors on our own, employers and schools may be able to benefit from the study of psychology. This may enable them to prevent circumstances in the environment from being a stressor to their employees and students.
For example, Kendrick and MacFarlane (1986) suggested that high temperatures may act as a stressor, as they found that drivers at a traffic light were more likely to use their horns in high temperatures. With this finding, employers and schools could think of ways that increases ventilation in their buildings, allowing cool air to circulate freely, thus, avoiding high temperatures from acting as a stressor.
Schools could also benefit from Bronzaft and McCarthy’s (1975) field experiment which found that students whose classrooms were away from the railway (in the quiet side of school) did better academically than those whose classrooms were next to the railway line. This suggests that loud noises may act as an additional stressor for students who may already be affected by the pressure of everyday life. Schools could use an understanding of this study to implement measures that reduce outside noise for students to perform to the best of their ability.
8. Health Psychology: Links between Physical and Mental Health
An understanding of health psychology may also help us to understand and identify the symptoms of stress. This is because bodily functions may undergo certain changes when dealt with a stressor, especially a prolonged stressor.
For example, Lane, Adnock and Burnett (1992) found that stress reactions contributing to heart problems may be due to changes in cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems. The effects may worsen if environmental stressors continue for long enough (Sloan et al., 1994).
Such stressors may complicate one’s lifestyle, further damaging their health, if they turn to excessive alcohol or tobacco consumption, excessive food consumption or reduction etc. As these activities may be associated with depression, a vulnerable patient may start to produce recurrent negative evaluations that further deteriorate mental state (Sharpley, 2002).
Therefore, health psychology can help by providing necessary information on the link between physical and mental health. Moreover, it could help to combat depression and anxiety from a physical standpoint.
Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind (Learning, development, and conceptual change). MIT Press.
Bronzaft, A., & McCarthy, D. (1975). The Effect of Elevated Train Noise On Reading Ability. Environment And Behavior, 7(4), 517-528. doi: 10.1177/001391657500700406
Christian, J., Flyger, V., & Davis, D. (1960). Factors in the Mass Mortality of a Herd of Sika Deer, Cervus nippon. Chesapeake Science, 1(2), 79. doi: 10.2307/1350924
Eckel, S. (2019). The Michelangelo Effect. Retrieved 19 July 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201901/the-michelangelo-effect
Germer, C., & Neff, K. (2019). Teaching the mindful self-compassion program. New York, United States: Guilford Publications.
Glass, D., & Singer, J. (1972). Behavioral Aftereffects of Unpredictable and Uncontrollable Aversive Events. American Scientist, 60(4), 457-465.
Kenrick, D., & MacFarlane, S. (1986). Ambient Temperature and Horn Honking. Environment And Behavior, 18(2), 179-191. doi: 10.1177/0013916586182002
Klin, A., & Lemish, D. (2008). Mental Disorders Stigma in the Media: Review of Studies on Production, Content, and Influences. Journal Of Health Communication, 13(5), 434-449. doi: 10.1080/10810730802198813
Lane, J.D., Adcock, R.A., & Burnett, R.E. (1992). Respiratory sinus arrhythmia and cardiovascular responses to stress. Psychophysiology, 29, 461-470.
Lewinsohn, P., Clarke, G., Seeley, J., & Rohde, P. (1994). Major Depression in Community Adolescents: Age at Onset, Episode Duration, and Time to Recurrence. Journal Of The American Academy Of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 33(6), 809-818. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199407000-00006
Riggio, R. (2016). 7 Ways Psychology Can Change Your Life. Retrieved 19 July 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201612/7-ways-psychology-can-change-your-life
Sbarra, D., Smith, H., & Mehl, M. (2012). When Leaving Your Ex, Love Yourself. Psychological Science, 23(3), 261-269. doi: 10.1177/0956797611429466
Sharpley, C. (2002). Heart rate reactivity and variability as psychophysiological links between stress, anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease: Implications for health psychology interventions. Australian Psychologist, 37(1), 56-62. doi: 10.1080/00050060210001706686
Sloan, R., Shapiro, P., Bagiella, E., Boni, S., Paik, M., Bigger, J., Steinman, R., & Gorman, J. (1994). Effect of mental stress throughout the day on cardiac autonomic control. Biological Psychology, 37, 89-99.
Whitbourne, S. (2019). How to Get the Relationships That Matter for Personal Growth. Retrieved 19 July 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201908/how-get-the-relationships-matter-personal-growth