These days there are so many designated events on the calendar such as “national donut day” or “international bacon day” that it is hard to keep up. Not that I have anything against them, I love donuts and bacon. But today is a day I hope most of us can get behind and support. World Mental Health Day. I wrote about my own experiences with depression here on the blog before. The main importance of that was to demystify the stereotype. I am a cheerful person, how could I have gone through depression? Well I did and by my sharing I hope to enlighten and encourage others. It is also a way to remove the stigma. And that is why I love this day so much.
I’d like to think that today people would take the opportunity to talk, share, connect and let our humanness shine forth. Social media is all well and good. Even though I am late to the game I love it. But unless it is serving a higher purpose then what is the point? There are many folks out there where social media is their life line. And many have shared with me their struggles with mental health. When someone is there to listen and empathize it means we are not alone. We can support one another even if we don’t live in the same town. “Seek first to understand, then be understood” as the saying goes.
Why is talking so important? Well I’ve always said it is “better to talk it out, than take it out.” By that I mean that if people are suffering from mental health issues, they can take their frustrations out on themselves through self harm, addiction or even suicide. They can take it out on another through abuse or abandonment. The destructive cycle just gets perpetuated. However when the illness is channelled in a more positive way such as talking (and possibly medication) the cycle can be broken. That is what happened in my case.
From my experience living in Los Angeles for more than 35 years, there are more therapists than supermarkets and dry cleaners combined. In fact many people have more than one therapist. Talking about “issues” seems to be a bit easier for Americans anyway, as the stereotypical Yankee is chatty and open. As for addictions, AA meetings have become the new “pick up” place. Some alcoholics anonymous meetings in L.A. literally have a line around the block. Everyone is trying to get in! But there can still be a stigma about deeper mental health issues such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia for instance. This is a generalized statement only based on personal experience, but people will talk about depression and anxiety but if you want to discuss more severe forms they kind of check out. Okay that’s TMI. Whereas if you talk about cancer and its various stages they aren’t as squeamish. Does this make sense? So even though Americans are more open there is still work to be done there.
In other parts of the world such as Ireland it is only recently that people are really able to freely discuss mental health issues. One person who has been a massive role model is Social Media Influencer Rosemary MacCabe. In fact in one of the first times I watched her on Snapchat she showed her journey to her therapist appointment and was open about her struggles with mental health. This is so important for people to see as it normalizing it. In the next snap she might be out shopping for new shoes or meeting a friend for brunch. The same as if she had a sore knee from too much training. But no one would blink about a knee. Yet when you say depression and anxiety in Ireland it has been known to make people recoil. Oddly enough, though the stereotype of an Irish person is joyful and cheery, often that isn’t the case, in the deeper sense. But now it is becoming acceptable for people to admit that without the fear of judgement and rejection.
In essence today is a day that is so needed in modern day society. With so much information at our fingertip what we also need is a caring human being to hold our hands and tell us it is going to be okay. We have probably all been touched by mental health issues in our small circle whether family, friends or ourselves. It is okay to not be okay as the saying goes. So if you are racing around today and find someone upsets you for walking too slowly, take a deep breath and try to smile. That person just might be going through a bout of depression after the birth of their child. And if you are feeling overwhelmed with work commitments and starting to feel anxious to the point of hyperventilating, its okay. Take a deep breath and talk about it with someone you trust. Chances are they’ll understand. We are all broken in our own unique way.
I once heard the quote, “we aren’t human beings trying to be spiritual, we are spiritual beings trying to be human”. Let’s embrace our humanness by reaching out to another that might need a hand. It will help us too I am sure of that!
Be Kind! Give Hugs, Real or Virtual,