Our recent history has created the concept of psycho-hygiene, it is called mental hygiene, and deals with the care of people’s mental health.
People ages ago realized that health should be preserved, not to wait to get ill and then treated. Even long ago, the ancient Greeks worshiped Hygeia – goddess of health. She was an embodiment of theirs endeavors for improvement of their integral health. Also, today the modern medicine says that maintaining health is more natural, more efficient and more economical than the treatment of possible disease caused by the negligence. The branch in medicine – Psychiatry – that deals with the improvement of human health – Hygiene – is named after the goddess Hygeia which, in the ancient Greeks imagination was the protector of the health.
Modern hygiene in the beginning of its development was only interested in the physical health, not paying much attention and not being focused of the kind of very important functions of the brain that control human behavior which is reflection of preserved, or in greater or lesser extent disturbed psychic health.
But the ancient Greeks, praising the goddess Hygeia, striven for the ideal Kalokagathia – as the ultimate goal of human development and personal maturity – physical and mental beauty. Their idea of an ideal person was a man who is equally mentally balanced, physically resistant and constitutionally proportionate with healthy emotions, a powerful body and a healthy constructive psyche.
In our time the hygiene achieved such a level of development that expands the concept of the health and how it should be looked after. World Health Organization – WHO, which was established after World War II, today is the ultimate authority for the protection of the human health, and considers health not only as physical, but also as mental and social well-being of man. Accordingly, the hygiene’s duty is to preserve, strengthen and enhance equally psychological and social functions of men.
The psycho-hygiene should not be strictly separated from the care of the physical health. The human being is unique: physical and mental functions are only different forms that show the activity of the same organism. But psycho-hygiene is mostly concerned with the functions of the brain: how do we respond to the events, what attitude do we take towards the environment in which we live, how we react when we come into contact with things, how do we influence them, that is, to all that is the content of our mental – social life.
Everything that happens in the human person is manifested in behavior. It is an external reflection of the inner psychic life of man. When a person is healthy, harmonious and resistant to the difficulties of life, his/her behavior is positive. It is useful for his/her progress, mental balance and personal affirmation in life, but equally serves the interests of the community in which the individual moves and contributes to the improvement, well-being and reconciliation of the interpersonal relationships in it.
Psychological health disorders manifest themselves in unhealthy, negative, socially unacceptable or totally unrealistic behavior. Such disorders go to the detriment of the individual concerned, impeding his/her astuteness in life, bringing them in conflict with the environment, but also that individual hinders the positive development of the collective by causing tension and discomfort in interpersonal relations, poisons the emotional atmosphere, causing discord and thus reducing the men’s productivity.
The psycho-hygiene seeks to improve the human behavior and to point him in a positive direction. The task of psycho-hygiene is to prevent, eliminate or at least alleviate behavioral disorders where possible. Its activity is socially important because it is aimed at suppressing one of the most common diseases of modern humanity. Along with the diseases of the heart and blood vessels, cancer, accident at work, in traffic, at home, mental health disorders are the biggest problem facing modern health medicine. Every third patient, that passes through the medical facility, suffering from some kind of psychological disorder. These are various difficulties in the emotional or intellectual life, in the manner of reaction and behavior towards other people, in the way they perceive themselves in their environment. Difficulties are classified into: difficulties with short-term depression, all the way to difficulties with very long intensity, or transient irritability to chronic long-lasting psychoses, that completely disrupt the relationship of the individual to the living reality, and sometimes they are forced to seek professional help or stay in a hospital for mental rehabilitation.
Often, a mentally disordered person appears on a doctor’s examination as a patient with physical problems. Emotional conflicts, enduring life difficulties, and persistent psychological tension can impair the work of the nervous system on certain organs and then the physical problem on which the patient complains is in fact a consequence of a psychological disorder. Organs in such ill state work disruptively, counterproductive, concealed and without showing any pathological change in the tissue itself. These are functional disorders, neuroses with physical symptoms or for the transformation of mental disorders that are felt like physical anxiety. Long-lasting functional disorders after some time can cause disruption of the structure of internal organs and disorder in their physio-chemical processes. Then, such a developed disorder turns into organ disease – a real, physical illness. Such diseases that start in the human psyche and will one day move beyond objective harm to a internal organ, are called psychosomatic illnesses by the modern medicine.
The ill behavior – no matter how it manifests itself, is always an expression of an insufficiently healthy and not completely balanced person. The concept – personality, covers all psychological functions of man, emphasizing their interconnection, mutual conditionality and dependence shown in one entity – a whole. Using the notion of personality, the psychology wants to emphasize that no psychic function acts on its own, so we can not to understand it if we look at it isolated from functional connections with other elements of personality. But personality is not just a set of more or less harmonious and psychological functions harmoniously connected to each other. It is something more than just a sum of elements of which it consists, it is superior feature of them all, synthesized in a unique, original objectives, which we call personality of the individual.
So, if one wants positive social behavior, the psycho-hygiene must ensure healthier development of the human personality. The man in his life inevitably will be faced with different problems, psychological stress, failures and disappointments. All this causes negative emotions in him, such as fear, depression, loss of self-confidence which could disrupt the mental balance and come to a series of unhealthy reactions and forms of antisocial behavior. Mental health is fragile to disorders and they are more intense and with stronger emotional strokes that a person experience. Under the pressure of hard mental loads and the healthiest person can “capitulate”.
The permanent, everyday life burdens are of such a nature that a psychologically stable person successfully overcomes, adapts and overcomes them in a positive and beneficial way for himself and their environment. If a person reacts in usual everyday situations unaccountable and with visible anxiety, then it is a sign that it is poorly resistant and not enough balanced person or an emotionally immature person. The less emotionally stable person, the easier it is vulnerable, and vice versa, the stronger emotional person, the easier it will submit even relatively harder psychological burdens.
In its biological environment, humans are exposed and under the influence of many pathogenic microorganisms that cause infectious diseases. The likelihood that he will suffer from some, is increased by having contact with it several times in a day or in continuity. But, the chance for disease increases proportionately if its natural resistance is at lower level. Therefore, the fight against infectious diseases aims to reduce or completely eliminate human exposure to pathogen microorganisms, and in the same time to increase the natural resistance of men or to make them totally immune to organisms that cause disease. The experience in medicine has shown that it is easier to make a man resistible to pathogenic microorganisms than to prevent them from coming into contact with them.
The same goes for the fight against mental illness. The mental peace could be provided in a way that we will get rid of all the duties, responsibilities and problems of life. But that would mean giving up the life itself, to deny from the very essence of life, because life itself is full of difficulties and problems, even when there aren’t any special pressures and burdens. Psycho-hygiene aims to alleviate these psychological burdens to which people are exposed in different environments. Thus, for instance, psycho-hygiene strives the men to live in a happy marriage, in a healthier family and in a sorted working collective. However, it fails to prevent unexpected emotional shock.
Therefore, the psycho-hygiene is oriented to raise the psychological resistance of the human person and immunization against life’s difficulties. The main task of psycho-hygiene is to help the person to develop in a healthy i.e. mature, strong, resistible and stable personality that will successfully adapt to life tasks and to solve life’s problems without having lost the mental balance.
The human personality is a dynamic concept. This means that it is not something permanent, fixed, predetermined or fixed. The person is created, shaped, improved or distorted, changed, it matures or grows old throughout life. But the younger is the person, it’s easier to and more fundamentally to change his mental functions. While personality develops and grows it is more exposed to the environment than in adulthood, when a person is already expressed and emphasized. If one wants to point the development of the human person in the right direction, it is necessary already in early childhood and later in the youth to influence him/her with as many positive healthy factors as possible.
The personality frame is formed in early childhood, even in pre-school age. The child and the experience with the people around him, his position among them and the life in general in the human community is acquired in the first years of life and are the basis for his/her later, sometimes lifetime views. Later life experiences and the numerous interactions alter his personality somewhat, either in a positive or negative sense, but often cannot substantially alter what has been built since the earliest age. That’s why psycho-hygiene attaches great importance to childhood. If in the age of childhood, we succeed to provide healthy mental development to the child, it is quite likely that later in life he/she will get along without any special emotional difficulties. To give the child the opportunity to develop as a stable person means to be prepared and to be resistant enough against the inevitable life difficulties and to be able to solve them successfully in a satisfactory manner and not just in childhood, but also as an adult.
The children’s psycho-hygiene is the most important field of action for psychology. Its task is to follow the formation of the young person from the very beginning of his/her life. At the same time, it observes the emotional environment in which the child grows, exams its impact on the child’s psyche, removes the harmful factors and it aims to boost beneficial ones. Also, by discovering inconspicuous signs that the child’s personality does not develop properly, in some case, intervenes with therapy with a correction of the psychological environment and by a psychological treatment, if needed. Children’s psychic-hygiene is trying to uncover mental disorders as soon as possible so that the development of the youth can be fully restored in a healthy course.
The care for the social health of people is predominantly preventive. It aims to make it psychologically as healthy as possible, it strives to prevent distortion of the emotional balance in it, and each mental damage bail is sorted out in the outset, in order to prevent further disruption of the person, because it is more difficult to treat if it gets more serious or if the damage is a long-term one.
The human personality is partly a result of inherited traits, but much more is the result of the environment in which it is developing. Because the basic character traits of a person are acquired in the childhood, the child’s educators are largely responsible for the kind of a person it will develop in. Therefore, psycho-hygiene of the child is much more concerned with its parents, teachers and other educators than with the child itself. All above mentioned should endeavor to create a healthier emotional connection in order to enable the child and to be a positive model of the behavior in the society.
But the activity of psycho-hygiene is not limited only to the mental health care of the young people. It follows the man as an adult, throughout his/her life time in different life situations.
Other areas that the psycho-hygiene covers are:
- Psycho-hygiene of the sexuality and marriage – which helps people build a happier community
- Workplace psycho-hygiene – which makes it easier for one person to work and adapt to his requirements
- Psycho-hygiene the neurosis – i.e. early detection, treatment and protection of adult neurotics
- Psycho-hygiene of aging – which helps a person to accept the fall of his life force without disturbing the mental balance
- Psycho-hygiene of the physical ill and defenseless people – with the task of assisting to a person to overcome their physical disabilities with common mental attitude
- Psycho-hygiene protection and rehabilitation of alcoholics, delinquents and other people with a serious and damage to the personality – which should be enabled for proper behavior in the social life
- Psycho-hygiene of psychopaths – that is aid to the mentally ill patients to set realistic orientation in life and to be re-enabled for productive work and to rehabilitated relative into the community in a relatively normal fashion