Mental Health Spotlight: How values affect mental wellness

At a recent support group, we discussed values. As I continue on this road of recovery, understanding basic concepts adds more skills to the toolbox. When discussing mental health, the values that we all hold as a foundation of how we deal with work, education, relationships, leisure and personal growth can get lost in the daily struggle of just keeping our collective heads above water. Yet, they are simply another aspect of defining what each of our “normal” can be.

There is a difference here between what our goals are and the values we hold as part of our core in daily life. For example, I write and advocate to help others realize their potential despite mental illness. Actually, I prefer the term mental wellness. That is more of a goal than a value. The values that I must achieve to obtain that goal are acceptance, empathy, honesty, helping others, etc. These are just a few of the values that I must keep developing in myself. More importantly, they are values that answer the question, “In a world where I can choose to have my life about something, what would I choose?”

The exercise we participated in is based on The The Bull‘s-Eye Values Survey (BEVS; Lundgren et al., 2012). It is a tool that is used for assessing values, values-action discrepancies, and barriers to value-based living. After defining the values in each of four categories: Work/education, Leisure, Relationships and Personal growth/health, the responses are charted on a bullseye target graph to see how close to the center we are with our values based on those four categories. The second part examines what the obstacles are from us achieving those values.

I found the exercise extremely helpful on two wellness fronts. The first is obvious, the obstacles. An interesting sub-narrative emerged. The first sub-narrative was who we found as the obstacles. Some found external sources/people to be the obstacles, while others found themselves as the obstacles. Our perceptions and expectations many times drive how we view our goals. I believe regaining that control is imperative. I mean, they are after all OUR values.

The second narrative was applying these values to goals. Goals can be unrealistic which leads to disappointment. Overwhelmed at failure, this can trigger our conditions. We always want to keep in the here and now in group discussions as falling back in the dark abyss of our conditions are by no means wellness, quite the opposite. By examining our values and applying them to the initial premise of “what would I choose?” Certainly, to get better is one of the answers.

I highly recommend going up to the internet and locating the survey. Take your time in completing it to see where your values are, where you would like them to be and how they can help you achieve your goals of wellness. Share with family and friends as they are part of your journey. It will have the added benefit of sharing how you feel about things, which increases understanding of recovery.

You can download the survey at:

Good luck and drop a line with your results. I would love to hear what you’ve come up with.

NEED HELP? IN THE U.S., CALL 1-800-273-8255 FOR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE.*Mental Health Spotlight is an opinion based column. Any resources mentioned are provided for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional.

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges