How Positive Psychology Can Help People With Mental Illness


            The modern changing climatic conditions, tough economic situations, increased disasters such as floods, terrorisms, unrests and homelessness has increased psychological tribulations to the individuals affected as well as those close to the people affected. However, the use of positive psychology can help to manage the increased horrors and sadness common in the modern world (Schueller, 2012). Positive psychology is a branch of applied psychology, which is focused on personal and group happiness. The field aims at developing an understanding of individual and group happiness, wisdom, well-being, imagination and the group and individual characteristics. Therefore, positive psychology, in many ways, helps in fostering individual well-being and thus can be extended to help individuals with mental health problems.

Helping People with Mental Problems with Positive Psychology

            Mental illness has been linked to a combination of environmental, biological and psychological influences. Most of the biological causes are related to the genetic makeup, which is transferred to the offspring. However, the psychological and environmental causes are related to physical and emotional abuse and anxiety, depression, anger or dysfunctional family units (Mitchell, Vella-Brodrick, and Klein, 2010). There has been an increase in the incidences of depression since 1960, with statistics pointing that over half of the US population is likely to experience depression in the future. The problem is likely to cost the country in the excess of $40 billion annually. Apart from biological causes, majority of the other causes of mental ill arise from daily experiences that individuals undergo. Therefore, the individuals suffering from mental illness can be assisted to achieve personal well-being through the harnessing of their characteristics, an achievement that is possible through positive psychology.

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According to (Slade, 2010), many people who recovered from mental illnesses around the world have been vocal on communicating individual experiences and what takes one from state of mental illness to recovery. These accounts have been very pertinent to psychologists in developing an understanding on what it takes such individuals to recover. The valid ecological accounts created a clear understanding that the road to recovery entails centrality of identity, meaning, hope and personal responsibility. According to the author, psychologists have referred such individual-based recovery as personal recovery, in contrast to the traditional clinical recovery. The researchers in the field of positive psychology have been able to establish the link between personal recovery and the use of positive psychology in development of positive personal recovery.

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            However, the psychologists who have carried out extensive research in the field of personal recovery asserted the importance of individual process in the course of personal recovery (Slade, 2010). The implication of this assertion, points to the fact that no one individual intervention or model, such as clinical guidelines or evidence-based practices, can be used to attain personal recovery. Therefore, there is the need for the individuals suffering from mental illnesses to engage and re-engage themselves on basis of their individual strengths and goals, finding purpose and meaning, social roles and creation of valued identity. All these tenets focus on the well-being of an individual with mental illness, instead of treatment of their illnesses. Therefore, positive psychology aims at promoting the well-being and it is for this reason that it can be employed to help the individuals with mental illnesses.

            In the study, (Slade, 2010) further asserts that many consumers of personal recoveries have identified the importance of self-identity, hope, purpose, connection, empowerment and spirituality in their recovery processes. Most of these tenets are absent in the profound clinical guidelines for healing mentally ill patients. The implication of this assertion points the importance of moving an individual from a state of mental illness towards mental recovery using such interventions, which may not be present in the clinical recovery guidelines. Moreover, most of the individuals with mental illnesses experience negative emotions in their lives. The management of these emotions can provide a better framework of moving such individuals towards recovery process.

            Moreover, (Sin, Della Porta, & Lyubomirsky, 2010), points that when individuals experience negative emotions, such as depression and delusions, helping such people to understand what creates positive emotions can alleviate their problems. However, as pointed by the author, the absence of the negative emotions in any individual does not mean the presence of positive emotions. Accordingly, most interventions that are used in the treatment of depressions focus mainly on the alleviation of the negative emotions. The authors further assert that the positive and negative effects are independent constructs and there is need to create individual well-being. Through positive psychology, a well-being is created and complete individual healing is achieved.

            In addition to the study by (Sin, Della Porta, & Lyubomirsky, 2010), (Wood and Tarrier, 2010), points the use of positive clinical psychology as having a number of advantages that help mentally ill individuals to achieve recovery. According to the author, positive psychology provides a more accurate mechanism of predicting and understanding a mental disorder. The author points the fact that the traditional framework of focusing on the negative life events was informed by the desire to learn more about the distress amongst the individuals. Ironically, most of the predictions of negative characteristics pointed to the absence of positive characteristics, rather than the presence of the negative characteristics. Although such studies of such characteristics were correlated to the distress, they have been found to be huge pointers of psychological dysfunction among individuals.

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            (Sin, Della Porta, & Lyubomirsky, 2010) further emphasize the importance of positive psychology in their study. The authors pointed that through the creation of positive emotions, using positive psychology, the individuals are likely to experience benefits such as increased job satisfactions, increased social relationships, increased creativity and greater matrimonial satisfaction. The effects of the outcomes of the positive emotions have greater influence on the healing of an individual with mental illnesses. The creation of positive emotions increases the speed at which such individuals recover from cardiovascular effects, which are often caused by negative emotions.

Moreover, positive emotions help in buffering against the coping skills and the improvement of the broad-mind skills of coping with the problems. As pointed by (Morris and Picard, 2014), the individual positive characteristics can serves as a buffer distress and negative events, as well as clinical disorders. An excellent example is the use of positive relationship support beliefs and personal coping abilities reduces the tendency of mentally ill individuals of committing suicide. The example points that whenever there are a lot of negative beliefs, and low positive beliefs, there is greater suicidality. Thus, it is clear that positive psychology, which aims at creation of positive emotions rather than elevation of negative emotions, has spill-effects that are more positive. It leads to creation of positive mind and positivity in the individual environment and thus speeding the mental recovery for the mentally ill people.

             Numerous works have been done on well-being therapy and positive psychotherapy. Most of these studies have predicted the success of use of positive psychology in the treatment of clinical mental disorders (Wood and Tarrier, 2010). Any therapy that seeks to promote well-being has been shown to possess advantages of relieving the residual symptoms associated with depressions.  The well-being therapy is such an example and it seeks to build the six dimensions of the individual psychological well-being. These dimensions include the environmental mastery, autonomy, self-acceptance, positive beliefs, personal growth and purpose in life. The therapy involves self-monitoring, identification and reinforcement of those beliefs that promote well-being, while changing beliefs that interrupt well-being. Moreover, some emerging interventions that promote positive interventions such as mindfulness, forgiveness, loving and kindness, have been shown to enhance mental health, while reducing depression.

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Through positive psychology, the traditional beliefs of diagnosis of distress has been challenged and more emphasis placed on creating more positive beliefs and reduction of negative beliefs that tends to affect individual well-being. Through the increased emphasis on the positive beliefs, individuals with mental disorders can be helped to move towards personal recovery and thus achieving greater mental health.

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