Promoting Mental Wellness in Social Justice Advocates Strategies for Mental Health Professionals

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Promoting Mental Wellness in Social Justice Advocates: Strategies for Mental Health Professionals

The study conducted by Oskari Lahtinen aimed to construct and validate a scale for assessing critical social justice attitudes (CSJAS) through two large studies involving a combined total of 5,878 participants from Finland. The research focused on the reliability, factor structure, model fit, and both convergent and divergent validity of the newly developed scale. Additionally, it explored the prevalence of critical social justice attitudes across different populations and their correlations with well-being variables such as anxiety, depression, and happiness.

Summary of Oskari Lahtinen’s Study: Construction and validation of a scale for assessing critical social justice attitudes

The initial phase involved creating a 10-item pilot version of the CSJAS from an initial pool of 21 candidate items through factor analyses. This pilot version was then refined in a subsequent nationwide study, resulting in a final 7-item version of the CSJAS. The final scale demonstrated high reliability, good model fit, and both convergent and divergent validity.

The study found that critical social justice attitudes were somewhat prevalent among women but not as much among men, with overall moderate support for the scale items across the sample. Additionally, high CSJAS scores were linked to anxiety, depression, and a lack of happiness, although these associations were mostly attributed to being politically left rather than specifically having high CSJAS scores.

The CSJAS was validated as a reliable and valid tool for assessing critical social justice attitudes, with potential applications in further research to explore these attitudes in various populations. The study also highlighted the gender differences in support for critical social justice attitudes and suggested that the lower mental well-being associated with these attitudes might be more related to political orientation than the attitudes themselves.

Strategies From A Mental Health Professional’s Perspective

From a mental health professional’s perspective, addressing the links between high engagement in social justice activities, political orientation, and mental health requires a nuanced approach that respects individuals’ values and commitments while also promoting their well-being. Here are several strategies that could be considered:

1. Promote Self-Care and Boundaries

Encourage individuals to maintain a balance between their activism and personal life. This includes setting boundaries around consumption of news and social media, ensuring adequate rest, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation.

2. Validate Feelings and Experiences

It’s important to validate the feelings and experiences of those engaged in social justice work. Acknowledging the emotional toll of confronting social issues can be a crucial step in the therapeutic process.

3. Develop Coping Strategies

Help individuals develop effective coping strategies for managing stress and negative emotions. This might include mindfulness techniques, cognitive-behavioral strategies to challenge and reframe negative thoughts, and problem-solving skills to address feelings of helplessness or frustration.

4. Encourage Community and Support

Social support is vital for mental health. Encourage individuals to connect with like-minded peers who share their values and can provide mutual support. Being part of a community can reduce feelings of isolation and provide a space for sharing coping strategies.

5. Focus on Achievable Goals

Help individuals set realistic and achievable goals for their activism. This can prevent feelings of overwhelm and helplessness by focusing on small, incremental changes they can make, which can contribute to a greater sense of agency and purpose.

6. Address Cognitive Dissonance

Some individuals may experience cognitive dissonance when their beliefs or social justice activities conflict with other aspects of their lives or when they face criticism. Providing a space to explore these conflicts and develop a coherent sense of self can be beneficial.

7. Encourage Engagement in Diverse Activities

While activism can be a significant part of someone’s identity, it’s important for individuals to have a diverse range of interests and activities that contribute to their sense of self and well-being. Encouraging engagement in hobbies, physical activity, and non-political social activities can provide balance.

8. Professional Support

For individuals experiencing significant anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, professional support from a psychologist or psychiatrist may be necessary. This support can include therapy, counseling, or medication as appropriate.

In summary, mental health professionals can play a crucial role in supporting individuals engaged in social justice by promoting self-care, validating experiences, developing coping strategies, and encouraging a balanced approach to activism and personal well-being.

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