Time for a Yearly Mental Health Check-Up

For years, I struggled with the tradition of wearing costumes and masks on Purim. Although I appreciated its traditional origins as a reference to the hidden nature of the Purim story, I still had trouble relating to its prominent status in the contemporary celebration of Purim. 

I recently began to think about this holiday tradition. By disguising our identities to others, we are, in essence, building a barrier between our inner and outer identities. This barrier temporarily frees us from our outer identity and grants us a chance to look inward. This is consistent with the traditional parallel between Purim and Yom Kippur, as donning a mask provides an opportunity for self exploration and examination.

In medicine, doctors recommend an annual physical as a vital part of preventative care and early intervention for insidious health issues.

Mental health is no less important. We need to check in with ourselves and practice preventive care for mental health issues. It can be helpful to use specific skills when evaluating mental health conditions. 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a form of therapy created by Dr. Marsha Linehan. It is the primary form of treatment that we use at our Machon Dvir clinics in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Raanana.  At its core, DBT advocates for the acceptance of a dialectic or opposing thoughts and emotions in order to improve emotional regulation. The therapy relies heavily on specific skills for evaluation and treatment of certain mental health conditions.

Here are some DBT-based questions to use for a mental-health checkup in three basic areas of your life:

Review your daily mood.
How has your daily mood been over the past several weeks? Are you getting enough sleep? Has your appetite changed dramatically? Has your energy level suddenly dropped? Do you feel anxious?

Review your relationships.
Do you find your interpersonal communication is effective? Are you able to assert yourself and or be flexible when appropriate? Do you find your relationships emotionally satisfying? 

Review your self-esteem.
Are you being fair and truthful to yourself? Are you sticking to your values? How often do you find yourself apologizing unjustly? Do you feel good about yourself? 

You can do a mental health checkup yourself or with the help of a therapist. It is important to understand that you should reach out to an appropriate professional for support and treatment as needed.

Those of us in the mental health profession have seen anxiety and depression skyrocket over the past two years.  Some have already recognized signs of emotional distress and are actively engaged in treatment, while many have yet to recognize the symptoms.

As we approach another Purim celebration in the shadow of the pandemic, let’s take the  opportunity to “remove our masks” to look inward and ask ourselves some important questions.  

Too many of us are long overdue for this mental health checkup.

About the Author
Dr. Sarah Reinstein is a board-certified psychiatrist in Israel and the US. She works as a clinical psychiatrist at Machon Dvir’s Raanana office. Prior to making aliyah in 2020, Dr. Reinstein was unit chief of the women’s inpatient unit at Zucker Hillside Hospital/LIJ. A graduate of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Reinstein completed her psychiatry training at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. She has experience in the DBT modality in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
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