Developing keen interest in mental health at some point of time in life is a sign of emotional intelligence.
Some reach that point via personal experience, some via observations in life, but most people reach there somehow.
Modern human has this insatiable urge to follow interests. Fortunately middle and upper middle class life offers time and money to indulge after kids have grown up. So following path of exploration in mental health is a natural given for most.
I request you to decide something early on in your journey. Which category do you belong to?
1. “Curious” – You like to read about mental health, mostly cognitive/emotional enhancement methods. – you trawl internet for positive psychology stuff and self improvement. It is an excellent pursuit and will keep you enthused, interested and entertained for a long time. As long as your own good self is the only subject of your experimentation, you are no harm to society. Many book sellers and workshop sellers (i am part of this one group) thrive on your interest.
2. “Serious” – You have experienced mental health issues firsthand or in your nearest circle as to affect you directly. Experience with standard medical model has left you unsatisfied and even hurt. Reading more and more and exploring esoteric , ancient as well as modern ways of getting more from mind or “healing ” is your life’s mission. As long as you don’t dissuade others from legitimate help, you can be a huge asset to yourself, family and humanity in general as your empathy and intelligence will be helpful in guiding many.
3. ” I (also) want to do something” – You are committed to make this world a better place as far as mental health goes. Various shortcomings in present system are painful for you and you are determined to do something about it.
If you are smart and consenscious, you will take up awareness and advocacy work to reduce lagtime in appropriate help, prevent people being fooled/exploited by system, actively working to guard rights on mentally ill, support / facilitate more help for others.
4. “Focus” – you have chosen a subfield in mental health e.g. positive psychology, rehabilitation, learning difficulties, etc. You spend adequate time in getting the training, apprenticeship, etc and work within this chosen area. You should have opted for psychology/psychiatry after school but circumstances took you somewhere else. It was a genuine loss of psychology/psychiatry that you spent 20-25 years away from field of mental health.
5. “Loose canon” – you had successful career/life so far and now you are hungry for more. You have taken it upon yourself to fill that hole left open by standard systems of marriage, school and medicine. Your chosen target for emancipation is likely to be children of adolescent age, women and couples. After doing your reading of popular psychology books by american authors and armed with your diploma from distance learning centre plus a splattering of weekend “workshops” you are ready to unleash yourself as “counselor/therapist”.
Sensible among you will continue to “counsel” near and dear ones, friends, family and related referrals. It is now an accepted modern way to fill your need of real intimacy and meaning in life.
Those with more devious bend of mind with eye on fame and funds are quick to set up “NGO” and do all the activities that go with this sector. Getting sponsored writing assignments in press, writing books, buying various prizes etc is your trade secret. No real qualification , no real ability to help people other than yourself and a hunger for “name” are your pathognomonic signs. Buying a PhD is epitome of your fraud as now you can proudly use “Dr” with your name perpetuating a fraudulent existence to eternity.
Except the last category of antisocial elements, all others are a great help to society. Only thing they need to be mindful of – a true professional is keenly aware of harm caused by even best of intentions and always tries to guard his client/patient from such harm.