Personal accountability key to mental well-being

Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse Mental Health

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Being accountable to oneself and to others concerning one’s thoughts, emotions, decisions and behaviours can help us maintain our mental well-being and recover from mental ill health.

What is personal accountability and what are the mental health

benefits of accountability?

Accountability is the ability to give account, to be answerable, to take responsibility for one’s decisions and actions. Accountability relationships include:

  • parent and child
  • wife and husband
  • teacher and student
  • mentor and mentee
  • supervisor and subordinate
  • between friends
  • between colleagues

Accountability requires us to be open,  honest and vulnerable enough to share our decisions, struggles and plans with others. Accountability also requires us to take responsibility as well as to be teachable and open to guidance and correction. The benefits of being accountable as a person include:

  • Being more productive and effective and able to achieve personal goals. A dream, vision or goal that only exists in our own heads and is not documented or shared with others can be easily discarded.
  • Improved decision making.
  • Building trust in yourself as well as trust and dependability with others.
  • Building a support system through stronger relationships with accountability partners.

Are you struggling with accountability?

  • Does anyone know how you spend your time?
  • Does anyone keep you accountable about how you spend your money?
  • Who is aware of your goals and plans for this year and do you allow them to keep you in check?
  • Do you get upset when asked about your decisions or actions?
  • Who knows how you are really doing emotionally and mentally?

Why is personal accountability so hard?

Being accountable is difficult because it requires openness and vulnerability. We sometimes feel ashamed or guilty where we are struggling or failing. Being accountable means we will be held to account and responsible for our decisions and actions by others. It is easier to blame shift and be defensive.

Mental health challenges that affect personal accountability.

Mental health problems that can decrease our ability to be accountable to oneself and others include:

  • Alcohol and substance use problems: compulsive, excessive use of alcohol and other addictive substances can be linked with a lot of shame and guilt. Often when we have an alcohol or substance use problem we will consume more of the substance than we actually intended, we will spend a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from the effects of the substance, we may fail at home and work responsibilities and may continue to use despite the physical, emotional and relationship challenges that the use is causing. All this can make it difficult to be accountable to others about what is really going on in our lives. Greater accountability is however a key part of recovery from an addiction.
  • Narcissism: the self-centredness, lack of empathy, and an exaggerated  sense of self-importance that someone with narcissism has will make it difficult to take responsibility for their words, decisions and behaviours. They will often blame others and will struggle to see their part when things go wrong.
  • Depression: can make us have a distorted view of ourselves and others and we may feel an exaggerated sense of guilt and self-doubt. Depression also make us socially withdrawn and isolated and this can make it difficult to form meaningful relationships where we can truly be accountable.
  • Impulse control problems: uncontrolled anger and rage will make it difficult to build relationships in which we can be accountable and is often linked to blame shifting and defensiveness which make it hard to be accountable.

How can I become more accountable for better mental well-being?

To become more accountable we need to improve our accountability to ourselves and to others.

To be accountable to yourself:

  • Set achievable goals and commit to them.
  • Track your own productivity
  • Commit to better self-discipline and productive routines.
  • Acknowledge your own challenges and failings and be open to getting help to improve.

To be more accountable to others:

  • Find someone who you trust who you can become accountable to.
  • Be open, honest and vulnerable enough to share your goals, dreams, vision, plans and challenges with the person you are accountable to
  • Give the person you are being accountable to permission to follow up on you and help to keep you in check.
  • Be open to criticism and guidance If you think that you or someone that you know may be struggling with a mental health problem, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

l Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) article written by: Dr. Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse, Consultant Psychiatrist Feedback : (Dr. Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse Whatsapp+263714987729) ( ; [email protected])


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