Your Value System is Your Mental Health

Working on value systems can help the client to manage disorders and, in many cases, also prevent people getting affected by mental disorders


Clients visiting mental health treatment centers fall into two categories- In one type the clients know they have a particular disorder like Bipolar, Depression, Schizophrenia etc. They know they have a disorder; they know how to manage their symptoms by taking appropriate remedial measures like medication or counseling. They keep in touch with their mental health providers. They conduct their daily activities like any normal person. The second type of clients is those who get worried and anxious about their mental disorder. They keep brooding over their disorder and get anxious. This leads to poor self-care, undue anxiety and worries which prolong their treatment process. They tend to suffer a lot as their focus is more on their disorder and are often reluctant to put effort to become functional. What makes the difference between these two? Both have identical disorder, pain and suffering yet both approach the same issue differently.

The new born baby of psychology, positive psychology helps us to understand the above phenomena. Working on value systems can help the client to manage disorders and, in many cases, also prevent people getting affected by mental disorders. Inculcating basic values systems in children helps them to be mentally healthy and helps them to grow into adults who value their mental health.  Research though in initial stages show positive results in this direction and is being used extensively in positive psychology. Value systems not only help in preventing mental disorder but are also used as therapy in many disorders. Many values are talked about and worked in research but these six values are considered easy to follow and can be easily taught to children. Each week can be devoted to one value to work on, by practicing each value and helping the children also to follow that value.

Gratitude is a quality of gracefully acknowledging someone’s unconditional love and service given to us. It is an act of showing appreciation and returning kindness. All cultures and religions of the world emphasize the act of showing gratitude for the good things we receive in our lives from various people. Parents can encourage their children to write letter of gratitude  to their teachers, friends, and relatives on special occasion like birthdays, teachers’ day etc. Parents can set examples such as writing a gratitude letter to their children which in turn can help children to appreciate and understand parents love and affection. Many children today feel disconnected from parents and this causes emotional pain and trauma among children. The first week can be devoted to expressing gratitude. Innovative ways can be explored to express gratitude and this can be extended to community workers, plants and animals.

Forgiveness is a deliberate and positive act of releasing the feelings of resentment or vengeance towards another person or group. Forgiveness intervention is used in promoting healing and preventing recurrence of mental disorder. Parents can help their children to use forgiveness wherever possible like when they have some small rift with their friends or with their siblings. Parents can practice using forgiveness first so that children learn by observing. The second week can be devoted to express and work on forgiveness.

Patience is the ability to keep calm when handling failures, disappointments, frustrations, suffering etc. Not much is talked about patience in today’s world yet it is the most powerful tool in strengthening one’s mental health. It is a trait where parents can help their children to work on this and more so by demonstrating this in their daily life. The third week can be devoted to practicing patience. Everyone gets plenty of opportunity to practice this in day to day interactions with people and engaging in day to day activities.

Compassion is showing concern and empathy for one who suffers. Compassion need not be confined to only human beings but can extend to animals, plants and all the resources that are in our environment. Inculcating compassion in day to day activities helps children to increase mental health. Even simple act of watering a plant, feeding a stray dog etc. demonstrates compassion. Parents can celebrate their children’s birthday by taking them to an orphanage or old age home and helping lesser privileged people. The fourth week can be devoted to compassion.

Strength here refers to one’s ability to focus one’s attention and energy in spite of all odds on those which brings growth and peace. It can relate to character strength or professional skills strength. Working on improving these can help children to be agile and well informed about them. Parents can help children to encourage speaking the truth, being honest etc. These are instruments of courage and strength. The fifth week can be devoted to working on strengths.

Humor in this context can be defined as an ability to see and express everything in a lighter note. It serves two main purposes, entertainment value and stress coping mechanism. Various researches indicate that children smile somewhere between 400 to 500 times a day. As adults, we lose this capacity and become rigid and over period of time smiles disappear from us. Children can be taught to look at things with humor and watching comedy shows is one of the ways to teach humor. The sixth week can be celebrated as humor week.

Parents can spend time with children and work on these values. They can tell or read inspirational stories, parables etc which emphasize these values. In the long run as the kids grow up, these can help them with good mental health.

Parents can create a Value System Card to be used to record daily activities promoting each value. Sunday can be used to review all the week’s activities with children, appreciate children for their effort and commitment.

The new proverb “A value a day keeps mental disorder away” can be our maxim in our lives now.

Let us all bring in values in our lives.

(This article is written by A.Subramanian, who is the Crisis Counselor at the Vandrevala Foundation. He is a trained Coach and works actively with students guiding them on career decisions.)