Last month, Dr. Jehannine Austin was featured in a Harper’s Bazaar article, where she spoke with writer Sally Newall about a simple analogy that could provide us all with a new perspective on mental health. Here, Dr. Austin discusses a ‘mental illness jar’ that every person has, which is filled with both genetic and environmental factors. She explains that everyone has varying degrees of genetic vulnerability to mental illness, which goes into the “jar” first, followed by environmental factors and external stressors. When these proverbial ‘jars’ fill up and overflow, people enter a period of poor mental health.
Dr. Austin points out that people can cope with a ‘full jar’ by adding ‘rings’ or ‘protective factors’ to make our jars taller, such as getting better sleep, nutrition and exercise, seeking out good social support networks, and finding ways to manage stress.