How to Develop a Happiness Mindset

Guest Post by Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Happiness is all about mindset. Many believe that happiness depends on external factors, but this is not the case. Happiness depends on your mindset. Absolute happiness can exist even in the face of adversity when you have a positive mindset. 

Setbacks will always be a part of life. No one can avoid hardships or problems, not even monks or saints. When problems arise, you can tackle them head-on. And when there are joyous moments in life, you can savor them. And when you can remain relatively unaffected by whatever is happening around you, you can create a mindset of absolute happiness. 

“If you want to be happy, be.”

Leo Tolstoy (Russian Writer)
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Tips for Developing a Happiness Mindset

Here are nine mental health tips for cultivating happiness.

Have gratitude for everything you have.

Human beings have a disgusting trait. They tend to focus more on the negative aspects of life than the positive. Oftentimes, people are more concerned about the things they do not have instead of the ones they already possess. Hence, they become unhappy. 

When you dwell on the things you’re missing out on, it is easy to be unhappy. For example, you may feel resentful when you don’t receive a raise or promotion at work. However, when you look outside of yourself at the millions of unemployed people in the world, you may feel better. (At least you have a job!)

Have gratitude for everything you have. Gratitude helps to develop positive emotions, enjoy experiences, tackle adverse situations, and build healthy relationships. When you have gratitude for even the small things in your life, you feel happy. 

“Happiness will never come to those who don’t appreciate what they already have.”

Anonymous

Develop a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset.

There are two kinds of mindsets. The first is the fixed mindset, and the second, the growth mindset

In a fixed mindset, you are resistant to change. You are rigid in your way of thinking and are not concerned with self-improvement or personal growth. When you encounter challenges, you choose to not learn from them. You tend to defend your position blindly. Hence, you become an angry, irritated, fearful, and unhappy person. 

In a growth mindset, you crave learning and personal development. Whenever there is a challenge, you view it as an opportunity for improvement. With a growth mindset, you evaluate the situation, acknowledge the drawbacks, and focus on the skills you need to be successful. You do not have an inflexible, narrow mindset and are not driven by ego. Instead, you embrace any new challenge as a learning opportunity. Thus, you become happy and content. 

If you want to be happy, adopt a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset. Regard every challenge you face as a medium to grow and prosper. 

Make a list of the things that make you happy.

Make a list of the things and memories that make you happy. Every morning, jot down a few words or phrases (i.e., friends, a favorite vacation, a beloved pet, your favorite meal, a brand new car, etc.). Add to your list daily. Once you have a list of considerable length, devote 30 minutes to reviewing it. In those 30 minutes, reflect on the people, places, events, and things that bring you joy.

Do not overthink or judge yourself.

Human beings have 6200 thoughts per day. And not all of those 6200 thoughts are positive. You experience both positive and negative thoughts. Try to not dwell on your negative thoughts, and do not overanalyze them. When you overthink things, you may worry unnecessarily and feel unhappy. Also, do not be ashamed of your negative thoughts. It is okay to have negative thoughts; just don’t let them overpower you. Let the negative go, and instead, focus on the positive.

Think about the best moment of the day.

Before going to sleep at night, think about the best moment of your day. It will bring a smile to your face. Did you love the food your significant other cooked for dinner? Or, if the meal was mediocre at best, be happy that they took out time from their busy schedule to prepare something for you. (It’s the thought that counts, right?) Relish in the feelings of happiness and gratitude as you drift off to sleep.

Focus on your goals and the journey rather than the obstacles.

You will face obstacles in life. Sometimes, you will fail and fall flat on your face. But you can pick yourself back up. Focus on your goals and on the journey itself, not on stumbling blocks you encounter along the way. When you’re fixated on a problem, you become discouraged and are thereby less likely to look for the solution. Subsequently, you get stuck, and happiness may seem out of reach. 

To get unstuck, develop a plan, and then take action to achieve your goals. Get back on track with a renewed focus, and fight until you succeed. Your vision of success will help you move forward as you continue on your journey.

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

Ben Sweetland (Author and Psychologist)

Think positive thoughts about others. 

When you think negatively about the people in your life, you become incapable of maintaining healthy, genuine relationships. Misunderstanding and miscommunication can lead to conflict. Heated arguments or giving the cold shoulder generates hostility.

As much as possible, assume that others have positive intentions. Do not judge their words, actions, or motives. Judgments cloud your heart with unhappiness. 

Stop comparing yourself with others.

Each life is precious. Every journey is different. 

Now, envision that you’re scrolling through Facebook. You probably see smiling, attractive faces and happy, perfect families. In comparison, your life may seem dull or pathetic. Suppose you just went through a painful breakup, and when you view your home feed, all you see is your friends getting married or having babies. You may feel disheartened. If so, remind yourself that Facebook only reveals a tiny piece of the picture, not the full story. You are looking at edited highlights of your friends’ lives. You don’t know what happens behind the scenes. Stop comparing your life with others, and write your own story.

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.”

Mandy Hale (Author)

Seek medical help to regain your lost happiness.

Happiness leaves your life when you develop severe depression. Depression is like a thief. It steals optimism and joy. If left untreated, depression can lead to hopelessness and mental anguish and will rob you of the ability to feel any pleasure or enjoyment. It may impact your relationships with others, in addition to affecting sleep, appetite, and energy levels. 

Unfortunately, the stigma associated with depression and other mental disorders may prevent people from seeking the medical care they need. Many view mental illness as a choice, a weakness, or even a put-on. In reality, the brain, like all other internal organs, is susceptible to illness.

What would you do if you were having heart palpitations, dizziness, and chest pain? Would you ignore your symptoms… or would you ask someone to drive you to the nearest hospital? Certainly, you would seek immediate medical care. Urgent health issues require treatment; likewise, urgent mental health issues require treatment. 

When there are chemical imbalances in the brain, your thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are affected. As a result, you experience depression, anxiety, etc.

If you are depressed, consult with a psychiatrist to learn about available treatment options. After assessing your symptoms, the psychiatrist will recommend one or more medical treatments. The first line of treatment for depression typically consists of medication and psychotherapy. However, if your symptoms persist despite continued treatment, your doctor may prescribe an alternative treatment, transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy, or TMS therapy. 


What is TMS therapy? 

TMS therapy is a non-invasive treatment that involves the delivery of recurring magnetic energy impulses to the parts of your brain that regulate mood. The magnetic pulses stimulate targeted brain cells to enhance communication between different parts of your brain, restoring balance. When TMS therapy is given at regular intervals, it is called repetitive TMS (or rTMS). TMS therapy reduces symptoms of depression and improves mood. TMS therapy is also effective for decreasing symptoms associated with OCD, PTSD, anxiety disorders, chronic pain, etc. This treatment is painless and has little to no side-effects. It does not involve sedation. Even after undergoing a session, you can drive back to your home without any hassle. That’s the best part of TMS therapy.


Conclusion 

In conclusion, to cultivate a happiness mindset, you must master your mind, not the other way around. True happiness comes from within and is not influenced by external factors. 

To develop the happiness mindset, practice gratitude, strive to improve yourself and learn, reflect on the things that make you happy (daily), be kind to yourself (and others), be solution-focused, compare self with self (not anyone else), and seek psychiatric care for depression.


Guest Author: Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Ralph Macey, a professional writer since 2008 and medical health/patient care coordinator at savantcare.com since 2014, writes articles on all mental health-related subjects. He holds a degree and two professional certifications in his field and continues to upgrade his knowledge with additional classes and seminars. He also provides mental health consultations and private fitness instructions for free in his local community.

Guest Post: My Experience with Depression

“I had absolutely no direction in my life. I was a loose cannon. An unguided projectile… I viewed life in a negative, nihilistic, cynical, and overall pessimistic way.”

Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay


Note: Kevin’s guest post or parts of it are also posted on other blogs. It is not entirely unique to this site.


Depression, also known by some as the silent killer. And for good reasons.

Little did I know I was going to find this out firsthand.

Early on in life, before the age of 16, everything was perfect. I had loving parents and, in general, a loving family. I had plenty of friends. I excelled in sports and did well in school.

Things were easy back then. The only ounce of responsibility I had was making sure I got passing grades. And what if I didn’t listen in school and got detention as a result? Well, he’s still a young kid who’s figuring out life. Got into a fight? Well, he’s still a young boy who doesn’t always thinks before he acts.

But my perfect world didn’t last.

My Experience with Depression

Around the age of sweet 16, my life started changing rapidly.

I stopped feeling happy and optimistic. At first, I thought it was just a phase everyone my age went through and that it would pass as quickly as it came. But it didn’t. I had a difficult time adjusting to my ever-changing environment and handling the pressure I believed was being put on me.

I didn’t know what I wanted for my future. My friends and schoolmates already knew what they were going to study when they went to college the next year. I, however, did not. I had no direction in life. I was a loose cannon, an unguided projectile, an immature and wild kid, busy with partying and drinking.

I started getting into frequent fights; I’m not a violent person, but the anxiety, negative emotions, feelings of helplessness, and an overall sense of feeling lost in this world led to physical confrontations with others. The fights were a reflection of my poor mental state.

Image by Annabel_P from Pixabay

Then I turned 18. My parents told me it was time to start taking responsibility for my choices and actions because this time “it was for real.”

In college, I decided to pursue the field of nutrition. Not because I had a strong desire to become a dietician, but rather, because people I knew from my home town were going this route, and I figured since I was interested in exercise/health, it might be a good fit.

Newsflash, it wasn’t.

I quit school two months in. Turns out choosing what course to study based on friends rather than what you want in life is not the smartest idea. (Who would’ve thought, right?)

The following year, I gave it another try. This time I studied occupational performance. Long story short, I managed to earn a college degree despite my depression.

After I graduated and started working as an occupational therapist in a physical rehabilitation center, things got better. I was motivated to help people relearn lost skills, improving their quality of life.

But in time, my thoughts turned dark again, becoming negative and nihilistic. I slept less and my sleep quality was poor. I would randomly wake up at night and cry because I felt so terrible. I withdrew from friends and family. I even discovered a way to measure the severity of my depression; when my mood worsened, I craved alcohol. Drinking was a way to self-medicate.

Image by succo from Pixabay

I continued to plow away at work, but an excessive sense of responsibility, perfectionism, and anxiety was eating away at my mental health. I was head deep into my depression.

One day, I woke up and found I couldn’t get out of bed. I had nothing left in the tank. I realized I needed to take some time off work to deal with my depression and get my life in order again. I called my parents and asked to come home.

At first, I didn’t leave the bedroom. There were successive days I didn’t get up to eat or shower. I was in constant mental pain. It was hell on earth.

One evening, I managed to get out of bed and sat down to eat dinner with my parents. They were silent, and looked tired and sad. Until this moment, my depressive haze prevented me from seeing how my illness impacted my family. I decided: that’s it, no more. It was my guilt that fueled the decision to fully contend with my mental illness.

Up until now, I was only living for myself, not participating and valuing what my parents, family, and others did for me. So, something needed to change. I needed to turn my life around. And with my life, my attitude.

I started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants. I took a sincere look at self, including undesirable traits I’d been afraid to face. I set goals for myself. And when I had zero desire to get out of bed, I pushed through. I made sure I did something useful every day.

After several months of therapy and medication, life became manageable. I talked more, was less irritable, and as a result, my life and that of those around me improved. At times I even looked forward to things!

How Depression Changed Me


Although the depression was tough on me, and there were times I didn’t know if I was going to make it, it brought about some positive changes.

I became more mature and resilient; I learned to put things in perspective and take necessary responsibility. But the two most significant aspects that changed were my so-called “intellectual arrogance” and the pessimistic way I viewed life.

Before, I considered myself a fairly intelligent fellow. The problem with this was that I overvalued intelligence, viewing other aspects in life as inferior.

Moreover, my attitude was overwhelmingly cynical and negative. What I failed to realize is that focus shapes experience. And if you only pay attention to the negative, you miss the beauty life has to offer. Now, I actively search for the good and beautiful things happening around me.

What Helped Me Get My Depression Under Control

In addition to medication and therapy, I found the following to be helpful:

  • Seeking help. We can’t do everything on our own, no matter how much we’d like to. There are times when you will need help to cope with your depression. In addition to professional help, seek support from family and trusted friends. You may find that feeling heard and understood is what carries you through the darker days.
  • Setting goals. I had no desire to do anything in life. I had no goals. For severe depression, I would advise setting smaller goals you think you would mind doing the least (minimal effort) and/or goals which you found important in the past (before your depression took over).
  • Taking responsibility. Although depression can be debilitating, practice taking responsibility for the things in life under your control. For me, it was easy to blame others for everything that went wrong, believing the world to be wretched and unfair, but it didn’t do me any good.
  • Exercising. Mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” brain chemicals related to pleasure. If you don’t enjoy exercise, try a hobby that requires some level of physical exertion. As an additional benefit, engaging in exercise can take your mind off the stressful things in life.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

My Depression Warning Signs

For me, there are clear signs that indicate my depression is coming back or worsening. Keep in mind that warning signs vary from individual to individual. What might be a warning sign for me may not for you.

  • My desire to do anything decreases. Hobbies I enjoy like weightlifting and running suddenly mean very little to me. But it’s not just about hobbies. Things like getting out of bed and showering suddenly become difficult because I have zero motivation or energy.
  • My thoughts get darker and more negative. It becomes increasingly tough to see the positive things in life or the positive in people. I become cynical and pessimistic.
  • Overthinking. I tend to overthink when things go bad, which is basically what depression is for me: feeling bad.
  • Anxiety. Negative thoughts and overthinking lead to increased levels of anxiety. My anxiety about the little things in life may seem insignificant to others who don’t have a mental illness, but a simple act such as calling or visiting a friend can freak me out and lead to rumination.
  • Ruminating. Intrusive thoughts run through my head and there’s no “off” switch.
  • Irritability. I become increasingly irritable; I’m in a foul mood all of the time and the smallest things piss me off.
  • Increased desire to self-medicate. I experience a strong desire to drink. Alcohol impacts the brain by triggering a release of dopamine. This rush of dopamine creates feelings of pleasure and happiness.
  • Decreased sleep quality. My overall sleep quality gets worse, partly due to constant overthinking and ruminating. Anxiety and stress are also big factors. And when I’m able to fall asleep, I wake up throughout the night.

Conclusion

Depression is a terrible disease that may go unnoticed if the signs aren’t recognized or known. A person with depression might attempt to maintain a positive front, possibly because they don’t want to complain or they’re afraid of being misunderstood.

There are multiple symptoms of depression; my symptoms went hand-in-hand, playing off one another and creating a vicious circle of negative thoughts that sucked the energy and lust for life from me.

Depression symptoms are different for different people. Learning to identify the symptoms will help you to recognize depression in others. Furthermore, an increased awareness enhances empathy and enables you to better support someone with depression.

I give the following advice to anyone with depression:

  • Don’t give up.
  • Seek professional help.
  • Seek support from your family and close friends.
  • Set goals and work hard to achieve them.
  • Take responsibility for the things you can control.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Is there a cure for depression? No. Do I think I will ever be totally depression-free? Maybe. What I do know for sure is that my illness is manageable and livable at the moment. I look forward to what the future has in store for me. Which is a lot more than I anticipated at first.


About the Author:

Kevin Mangelschots is a writer and occupational therapist with seven years of experience in the field of physical rehabilitation. He is a long-time fitness enthusiast. Kevin lives in Belgium and has created a platform for other bloggers to share their life stories where he writes about his own experience with depression at retellinglifestories.com.

Movies About Addiction & Mental Illness

(Updated 5/20/20) A list of movies about mental health and substance abuse – includes PDF printable discussion questions

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

The following is a list of movies about addiction and mental disorders that are appropriate to show in treatment settings. This post includes movie summaries and downloadable PDF handouts with questions for discussion.

Please note that some of the films on this list are graphic and may not be appropriate for children or adolescents.


Hint: The handouts contain spoilers; do not provide until after the movie ends.

Movies About Addiction & Mental Illness

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.


Ben Is Back (2018)

103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes), R-rating for language and drug use

Summary: Julia Roberts plays a mother, Holly, whose 19-year old son, Ben, surprises her by returning home for Christmas. Ben is newly in recovery; his addiction has placed a tremendous strain on the family in the past. Ben’s younger siblings are happy to see him, but Holly, fearing that he is not ready, is apprehensive. That evening, the family attends church. When they return, they find their home burglarized and the dog missing. Ben blames himself, believing someone from his past took the dog to get his attention; he leaves to look for the dog. Holly goes with him, but they’re later separated, and Holly attempts to track Ben. Eventually, she ends up at an abandoned barn where she finds her son on the floor, unresponsive. The movie ends with her administering Narcan to Ben.

Girl, Interrupted (1999)

127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes), R-rating for strong language and content relating to drugs, sexuality, and suicide

Summary: Winona Ryder plays Susanna, a young woman with borderline personality disorder, who is sent to a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt in the late 1960s. She befriends Lisa (Angelia Jolie), who carries a diagnosis of sociopathy (antisocial personality disorder). Initially, Susanna is in denial about her mental condition and is not open to treatment. However, she reaches a turning point after a tragedy.

Pay It Forward (2000)

123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes), PG-13 rating for mature thematic elements including substance abuse/recovery, some sexual situations, language, and brief violence

Summary: Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) starts a chain reaction of goodness for a social studies project with a plan to change the world for the better. In this film, Trevor is a high school student whose mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt), struggles with alcoholism and whose father is abusive. He rises above unfortunate circumstances with the kindhearted idea to do a good deed, but instead of requesting payback, asking the receiver to “pay it forward” to at least three people – and on and on. While the movie has a bittersweet end, the message is uplifting and powerful.  

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes), PG-13 rating

Summary: Charlie is an unpopular high school freshman, a “wallflower,” who is befriended by two seniors, Patrick and Sam (Emma Watson). The movie is about their friendship and Charlie’s personal struggles with the recent suicide of his friend and his own mental illness. Throughout the film, Charlie has flashbacks of his aunt, who died in a car accident when he was 7. It’s eventually revealed that Charlie’s aunt molested him; a sexual encounter with Sam triggers Charlie’s repressed memories. Charlie has a mental breakdown.

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

113 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes), R-rating for language and brief sexuality

Summary: Anne Hathaway plays Kym, a troubled young woman, who returns from rehab to her family home for her sister’s wedding. The film portrays how Kym’s addiction has placed strain on the family.

When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)

126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes), R-rating for language

Summary: Meg Ryan plays Alice, a woman with an alcohol use disorder. The film is about how Alice’s addiction impacts her family and how she recovers.

Bonus: The Netflix original films Heroin(e) (2017) and Recovery Boys (2018) have PDF discussion guides with a summary, questions, and resources posted on the Recovery Boys website.


Other great resources for using clinical films as therapeutic interventions include the book Movies & Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathy, 4th ed. (by Danny Wedding and Ryan M. Niemiec) and the site Teach With Movies.

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Free Online Assessment & Screening Tools

(Updated 1/20/21) Free PDF and interactive online assessment tools for addiction, mental illness, boundaries/attachment styles, relationships/communication, anger, self-esteem, suicide risk/self-injury, personality, and more. This list includes both self-assessments and screening tools for clinicians to administer and score.

Image by GuHyeok Jeong from Pixabay

This is a list of free online assessment screenings for clinical use and for self-help purposes. While an assessment cannot take the place of a diagnosis, it can give you a better idea if what you’re experiencing is “normal.”


For additional online assessment tools to use with couples, see Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools.


Free Online Assessment & Screening Tools

Jump to a section:


Addiction & Substance Use Disorders

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for substance use disorders and other addictions

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Anxiety & Mood Disorders

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders

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Trauma, Stress, & Related Disorders Online Assessment Tools

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Obsessive-Compulsive & Related Disorders Online Assessment Tools

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Online Assessment Tools for Eating Disorders

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Online Assessment Tools for Personality Disorders

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Boundaries & Attachment Styles

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Relationships & Communication


For additional relationship and communication assessments, see Free Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools.

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Anger


For additional online assessment tools and resources, see Resources for Anger Management.

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Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

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Suicide Risk & Self-Injury

  • Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale | PDF scale
  • Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory | Measurement of deliberate self-harm (PDF)
  • Imminent Risk and Action Plan | Assessment/plan from the University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology
  • Lifetime – Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Count (L-SASI) Instructions Scoring | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The L-SASI is an interview to obtain a detailed lifetime history of non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior. Citations: Linehan, M. M. &, Comtois, K. (1996). Lifetime Parasuicide History. University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work.
  • Lineham Risk Assessment and Management Protocol | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Linehan, M. M. (2009). University of Washington Risk Assessment Action Protocol: UWRAMP, University of WA, Unpublished work.
  • Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Assessment Tool Brief Version | Full Version | Assessment tool created by Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery
  • NSSI Severity Assessment | A PDF assessment tool from the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery to assess the severity of non-suicidal self-injury
  • Reasons for Living Scale Scoring Instructions | RFL Scale (long form – 72 items) | RFL Scale (short form – 48 items) | RFL Scale (Portuguese) | RFL Scale (Romanian) | RFL Scale (Simplified Chinese) | RFL Scale (Traditional Chinese) | RFL Scale (Thai) | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The RFL is a self-report questionnaire that measures clients’ expectancies about the consequences of living versus killing oneself and assesses the importance of various reasons for living. The measure has six subscales: Survival and Coping Beliefs, Responsibility to Family, Child-Related Concerns, Fear of Suicide, Fear of Social Disapproval, and Moral Objections. Citations: Linehan M. M., Goodstein J. L., Nielsen S. L., & Chiles J. A. (1983). Reasons for Staying Alive When You Are Thinking of Killing Yourself: The Reasons for Living Inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 276-286.
  • Self-Injury Questionnaire | To assess self-harm (PDF, assessment in appendix)
  • Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire | SBQ with Variable Labels | SBQ Scoring Syntax | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SBQ is a self-report questionnaire designed to assess suicidal ideation, suicide expectancies, suicide threats and communications, and suicidal behavior. Citations: Addis, M. & Linehan, M. M. (1989). Predicting suicidal behavior: Psychometric properties of the Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement Behavior Therapy, Washington, DC.
  • Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Interview (SASII) SASII Instructions For Published SASII | SASII Standard Short Form with Supplemental Questions | SASII Short Form with Variable Labels | SASII Scoring Syntax | Detailed Explanation of SPSS Scoring Syntax | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SASII (formerly the PHI) is an interview to collect details of the topography, intent, medical severity, social context, precipitating and concurrent events, and outcomes of non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior during a target time period. Major SASII outcome variables are the frequency of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors, the medical risk of such behaviors, suicide intent, a risk/rescue score, instrumental intent, and impulsiveness. Citations: Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., Brown, M. Z., Heard, H. L., Wagner, A. (2006). Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Interview (SASII): Development, Reliability, and Validity of a Scale to Assess Suicide Attempts and Intentional Self-Injury. Psychological Assessment, 18(3), 303-312.
  • Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) Toolkit | Source: National Institute of Mental Health
  • University of WA Suicide Risk/Distress Assessment Protocol | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Reynolds, S. K., Lindenboim, N., Comtois, K. A., Murray, A., & Linehan, M. M. (2006). Risky Assessments: Participant Suicidality and Distress Associated with Research Assessments in a Treatment Study of Suicidal Behavior. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (36)1, 19-33. Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., &, Ward-Ciesielski, E. F. (2012). Assessing and managing risk with suicidal individuals. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 19(2), 218-232.

For additional resources for suicide risk, see Resources for Suicide Prevention & Recovery.

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Self-Esteem & Self-Compassion

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Online Assessment Tools for Personality & Temperament

  • Berkeley Personality Lab Measures
  • Grit Scale | Several versions available
  • The HEXACO Personality Inventory – Revised | Download either the 60-item or 100-item version to assess for six personality dimensions
  • Introversion Scale | PDF questionnaire for introversion
  • Jung Typology Test | Interactive assessment based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ personality type theory
  • Keirsey | Take this interactive assessment to learn your temperament. (There are four temperaments: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational.) My results were consistent with my Myers-Brigg personality type. (Note: You must create an account and enter a password to view your results.)
  • Personality Scales | 2 Word-document assessments
  • Personality Tests | A collection of assessments
  • The SAPA Project | SAPA stands for “Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment.” This online personality assessment scores you on 27 “narrow traits,” such as order, impulsivity, and creativity in addition to the “Big Five” (Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness). You’re also scored on cognitive ability. This test takes 20-30 minutes to complete and you will receive a full report when finished.
  • Similar Minds | A fun site for personality tests
  • Social-Personality Psychology Questionnaire Instrument Compendium (QIC) | A collection of assessments and screening tools

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Emotional Intelligence

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Health & Wellness

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for happiness, resiliency, exercise, sleep, nutrition, and other health/wellness topics

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Additional Online Assessment & Screening Tools

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for various topics related to mental health, addiction, and other topics

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Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


If you know of a free assessment for mental health or addiction that’s not listed here, please share in a comment! Contact me if a link is not working.

9 Myths & Misconceptions About Mental Illness

Are mentally ill people violent? Can mental illness be overcome through willpower? Is addiction a choice? This post addresses some of the myths and misconceptions about mental illness.

There is stigma attached to mental illness and substance use. The media, unfortunately, perpetuate stigma by spreading misinformation.

For example, every time a school shooting occurs, the media attributes it to (or at least references) mental illness. Journalists first, and then social media trolls sensationalize news stories about the shooter’s eccentricities and all the signs that were missed. Upon learning that the shooter was having problems at home and didn’t get along with his peers, one might suspect mental illness. And suspicion becomes certainty when mental illness is viewed as the only plausible rationale behind the senseless violence. (It’s also rationalized that ‘normal’ people don’t shoot each other for no reason. So when there is no apparent motive, mental illness is blamed.)

Next, mainstream media circulates the story about the depressed kid turned killer. The message received is “mental illness is dangerous” or “people with mental disorders are criminals.” This misinformation is absorbed and regurgitated in society, online and off.

Unfortunately, misconceptions about mental illness are common, and not just with the media. Even healthcare workers, including mental health professionals, believe common myths.

In this post, I will address some common myths and misconceptions surrounding mental illness.



Ignorance is the root of stigma.
 The more you know, the less you fear, and the less you’ll stigmatize. Read on to learn about myth versus fact.


9 Myths & Misconceptions About Mental Illness

1. Bad parenting causes mental illness.

Mostly Myth!

Even today, there is no single identified cause that explains mental illness.

However, there are multiple known risk factors (biological, environmental, and social) that contribute to the development of mental disorders. Having a genetic predisposition to mental illness is the biggest risk factor. Genetics largely determine if a person will develop schizophrenia, depression, substance use disorder, etc. About 40-60% of mental illness is determined by biology.

Physiological factors (such as structural differences or chemical abnormalities in the brain) are another risk factor. Additional biological risk factors include prenatal damage, brain injury or defects, illness or exposure to toxins, and damage from drug and alcohol use.

Environmental and social factors include fetal exposure to a toxin and childhood trauma, among others.

Childhood abuse and neglect undoubtedly fall into the ‘bad parenting’ category. What’s more, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with chronic disease, obesity, decreased immune function, substance use, and mental illness in adulthood.

While childhood abuse, neglect, and even spanking are linked to poorer mental health outcomes, bad parenting does not cause mental illness. Bad parenting can be a risk factor, depending on severity and impact, as well as the presence or absence of protective factors. (Protective factors include resiliency, health, feeling safe at home, etc.) Also, ‘bad’ parenting is somewhat subjective.

Generally, the more risk factors (and fewer protective factors) a person has, the more likely they are to develop a mental illness.

2. Mental illness is not a medical disease.

Myth!

Heart disease affects the heart. Colon cancer affects the colon. Autoimmune disorders affect the immune system. Brain disorders (i.e. mental illness, addiction, brain cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.) affect the brain.

Like other organs, the brain is susceptible to disease. Brain disease manifests as changes in behaviors, thoughts, memory/processing, speech, emotional regulation, judgment, and more. Because your brain is the body’s control system, brain disease may also impact balance, muscle coordination, the ability to use your sense of taste, smell, touch, etc.

You cannot ‘see’ mental health symptoms the way you can see some physical health symptoms (such a rash or a broken bone), but you also don’t see most physical health symptoms.

When you have a headache, no one else can see it. You don’t even know what’s happening to the neurotransmitters and synapses across the lobes in your brain. You’re solely responsible for describing the pain to your doctor so they can prescribe the right treatment.

In reality, there’s not such a huge distinction between so-called physical and mental illnesses. They can both be painful and debilitating, and may require medical treatment.

3. All sociopaths are dangerous.

Misconception!

The term ‘sociopath’ (or psychopath) is frequently associated with serial killers. The reality is that you probably know a sociopath and they aren’t a murderer.

In fact, ‘sociopathy’ and ‘psychopathy’ are no longer recognized as diagnoses in the mental health world due to negative connotations. The diagnosis became associated with a sterotypical portrayal of a psychopath as a ruthless and insane serial killer. The stereotype is perpetuated by filmakers and TV producers and continues to show up in movies and series even today, despite the glaring inaccuracies with the diagnosis.

The correct term is antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), a mental illness characterized by an ongoing disregard for and violation of the rights of others. An individual with ASPD may also be exceptionally charismatic. (Some of the most charming and engaging clients I’ve ever worked with had ASPD.)

However, research indicates that an individual with ASPD is more likely to become involved in criminal activity,to have a substance use disorder, and to be aggressive; about 50% of individuals with ASPD have some sort of criminal record. 

While it’s a misconception to say all individuals with ASPD are dangerous, the link between ASPD and crime is not unfounded.

4. Mental illness can be overcome with willpower.

Myth!

This is 100% myth. The notion that mental illness can be overcome with willpower goes hand-in-hand with the belief that mental illness is not a ‘real’ medical condition. 

A mental disorder typically requires treatment, such as medication and therapy, and ongoing illness management. 

All the willpower in the world will not help someone overcome heart disease. And it does not work that way with mental illness either.

5. Addiction is a choice.

Myth!

Substance use disorder is no more of a choice than diabetes or cancer. Like most diseases, addiction develops when a combination of genetic, physiological, psychological, and environmental factors are present. Lifestyle choices also play a role. Unfortunately, the myth that addiction is a moral failing persists.

An individual who has an addiction receives more blame than someone with a heart condition, even though lifestyle choices heavily impact both disorders. I have even heard the argument that addicts who overdose should not be revived because it was their ‘choice’ to use. If that is the logic, then should we stop providing life saving care to someone who is obese when they have a heart attack or to a smoker with lung cancer? Of course not. At times, we all make poor decisions. For someone with a predisposition for addiction, the choice to drink may lead to alcohol use disorder. For the person with a predisposition for diabetes, eating an unhealthy diet or living a sedentary lifestyle will result in consequences.

Furthermore, once a person develops a substance use disorder, physiological and structural changes in the brain dissolve the element of choice. The brain misinterprets a craving for drugs or alcohol. (Remember the last time you experienced extreme thirst? That is what it is like to be addicted to something.)

Having a substance use disorder is miserable, lonely, and shameful. No one chooses that.

6. People with mental illness are violent.

Misconception!

Having a mental illness does not make someone more likely to commit a crime or act of violence, especially if that person is following treatment recommendations for psychotherapy, medication, etc. Rather, biolocial, psychological, and environmental factors are associated with violent behavior. In the general population, younger males in lower socioeconomic classes with lower levels of education and employment are the most likely to engage in violent acts, not persons with mental illness.

While the media would have us believe that mental illness is at the root of every mass shooting, this isn’t the case. Most people with mental health problems do not commit violent acts or crimes, and most violent acts are not committed by people with mental illness. It’s also true that persons with severe mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime.

Moreover, individuals with mental illness are more likely to die by suicide. Persons with schizophrenia have higher rates of suicide than the general population. Depression, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder are also linked to suicide.

A mental disorder is a medical condition; having weak morals is a personality trait, and while it seems mentally sick, it’s not fair to compare a lack of morals to a condition like depression or anxiety.

7. Mental illness is the same thing as mental retardation.

Misconception!

I am friends with a nurse who did not know the difference (until I pointed it out). A person with a mental illness may seem less intelligent due to various factors, but mental illness is not comparable to mental retardation. Today, we refer to mental retardation as intellectual disability (due to the negative connotations attached to the word ‘retarded’).

A person with an intellectual disability (ID) struggles to understand, comprehend, and/or form memories. A person with mental illness, on the other hand, may have superior intelligence, but could seem slow due to distractions brought on by their illness. (For example, it is difficult to focus on a conversation when you’re having racing thoughts or hearing voices.)

8. A person with schizophrenia has multiple personalities.

Myth!

A person with schizophrenia may hear voices and even respond to what they hear, but they do not have multiple personalities. Multiple personality disorder (MPD), on the other hand, is associated with distinct personalities.

Today, MPD is referred to as dissociative identity disorder (DID). A person with DID has at least two distinct personality states, and suffers from gaps in memory. The prevalence of DID is largely unknown, but it’s estimated that 1-2% of Americans have DID. DID occurs so rarely that its existence was once disputed in the scientific community. There is a strong correlation between DID and childhood trauma and abuse.

With schizophrenia, the voices may be distinct, have their own names, and can be experienced as different personalities (male, female, child adult, friendly, cruel, etc.) or entities, but someone with schizophrenia has only one personality. Dissociation is not a typical symptom of schizophrenia.

In addition to auditory hallucinations, someone with schizophrenia may experience visual hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thoughts, cognitive deficits, and/or what’s referred to as negative symptoms. A negative symptom is a lack of something that is typically present in someone without schizophrenia. For example, a person with schizophrenia may be socially withdrawn or he/she may seem very flat, or without emotion.

9. Alcohol makes you depressed because it is a depressant.

Part Myth, Part Misconception!

Yes, alcohol is a depressant. but as a depressant, it depresses your central nervous system, leading to slurred speech, trouble with coordination, etc. The intoxicating effects of alcohol are not symptoms of depression.

However, heavy alcohol use is associated with depression and other mental disorders. Someone who has depression or anxiety may drink to self-medicate. Alternatively, someone with an alcohol use disorder may develop depression, as alcohol upsets the chemical balance in the brain. What’s more, a person may regret the things they do while intoxicated, leading to intense guilt, shame, and/or hopelessness.


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


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