|Posted on January 4, 2017 at 1:05 AM|
All this talk about mental health, mental illness, suicidal tendencies, positive energy, negativity, really got me thinking to take the initiative and pursue another barrier to mental health and wellness. But which one, pray tell? There are so many, or there seems to be so many out there. Go put your boxing gloves and protective gear on and I'll hold them off for you. I thought that after beginning with religious barriers I would focus next on what seemed most likely to think of. And since talking about social stigma and mental health barriers is more important than I'd originally thought, I created a new blog category "Barriers, No More" to draw more attention to them at any given time. Now, let us begin by exploring the barrier between people with mental health conditions and those without.
But how? This barrier, for several different reasons, feels completely untouchable. You either have mental illness or you don't; you either know what it feels like or you don't, right? Not necessarily, which is where advocates like me come in handy and especially people who have a keen sense of perception or awareness. It doesn't matter if the barriers to mental health and wellness seem or actually are difficult to bring down. Think of how people felt about the Berlin Wall while it was being torn down, not before it was. Through individual and group effort, hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, we will still be here next year if I have anything to contribute. So let's tackle this barrier.
The first notion is that people without mental health conditions can't experience them as we do for an effective first hand point of view. Technically, this barrier can't be breached even if it were possible to enable people without mental illness to experience these conditions because that would be unethical anyway. They will never be able to feel or see what it's like in order to be aware and sympathize accordingly, let alone to reach that point quickly enough to help us better. As I've come to learn by my habit from notoriously over-thinking things, the solution is much simpler than it seems.
In fact, I am doing it right now. Give up? For each person who can share what their experiences are like, openly as I am or discreetly to a few of your closest considerate peers and loved ones, the gap of knowledge is reduced. This is not to say that I expect or believe everyone suffering from mental health conditions should speak out, because that is what advocates like me can do for you. While advocates work together en masse to repel social stigmas, by sharing intricate details of our experiences with mental illnesses we also help speed up reducing the knowledge barrier so people without them can learn what it is like first hand from people like me. The more I can describe of my own experiences, the quicker the general public can learn what it is like and generate momentum for it to happen faster.
That will take time though, so what can I do here and now? What could I say to the people who don't understand or know what it is like in more precise terms? I will say that it will not be easy to understand the many mental health conditions affecting people every day worldwide. The most important suggestion I would offer is to have patience and compassion. Whether you are the parent, guardian, sibling, relative, friend, in a relationship, to be engaged, or the spouse, and you feel something is wrong with your loved ones but don't know what to say or do, there are some options you could try on your own.
If you decide or feel it is necessary to have a sit-down discussion because of the symptoms present, do not talk down to them. It doesn't matter how concerning the symptoms may be; talking down to someone with mental health conditions does not create the reassuring bond needed to earn their trust. For the victim, it may be awkward or difficult to share their true feelings. Even to someone they live with or are close to. Some mental health problems involve a feeling that the victim needs to hurry up their decision making skills, or handle their emotional stability quicker than they are able to do. Perhaps they are having trouble attaining lasting employment, so putting them under more pressure may only make it worse.
Just try to give your loved ones enough space, compassion to what they feel or are going through, even if you believe you are the cause for some of their tension. Caring about their welfare and being reasonably attentive can go a very long way, especially if the person's symptoms manifest in force and on a daily basis. After some time you may feel unable to maintain the bond to help them because it is taking too long to overcome short-term symptoms. Do the best you can either actively involved with their mental health or passively being supportive for as long as you can. The moment you exhibit disinterest or a lack of fair attentiveness believe me the person will pick up on that easily, and it will not help their stability or confidence.
Be strong for them whether they confide in you or not. If at first they don't share their feelings or concerns with you, keep trying to encourage them to talk about what bothers them. Use the best tact and timing you can, ask them how they are feeling that day, ask them questions if you don't yet understand their symptoms once you've gained their trust, and reassure them each time that they just need to hang in there. Become the bridge that separates you from them. If you don't know what it is like to have mental health conditions, you may come across as alienated from them just for that fact alone. Try to learn the extremes of your loved one's conditions and adapt accordingly, keeping in mind knowing who and when to call for help if need be.
Yes, it takes a certain level of commitment that a number of people don't feel comfortable with because they have obligations of their own lives to handle. Some people tend to be apprehensive or fearful that a person may become violent to themselves or those around them, as well as suicidal. They don't want to risk their own safety or to have the guilt on their conscience if they offer the wrong advice. I deal with this every time I help someone, and it only gets better with practice, compassion, and time. Do the best you can, and that is all anyone will ever expect above and beyond. Believe me your efforts to learn about what affects your loved ones will make a world of difference, and usually they will sense that and feel better about themselves slowly but surely until better help can be found.
If you decide not to help or be their confidant, for a person who is not comfortably close for you to help, the next best thing to do is try to encourage them to get proper help and listen to them talk about their feelings when you can. You don't necessarily have to help everyone who has mental illness symptoms, but you are obligated to if you learn about someone in need of the help. Again just ask questions, listen to them, and do the best you can. Should you believe it is not the best option to have a casual discussion, don't push for one. The fact that mental health is complex and complicated shouldn't deter you from the goal of providing moral support, because these issues can take time to deal with. Patience is your best friend when it comes to the long-term.
Take my situation, for example. Thirty fives years of age, stricken with career anxiety among others that has caused considerable decision making problems, and still living at home with my parents whom have both retired by now. Something you might not realize is that there is an age factor, which if the victim is over twenty five years or older, the expectations of the real world apply immense pressure to the situation. Have I tried to share with my parents about my intricate feelings or my symptoms? Honestly, yes but not much because they are unfamiliar with mental health from their upbringing to be able to help. But they have been patient, especially since June of last year and overall in recent years.
Since I am in my mid-thirties the pressure is very acute and unique, but not uncommon. There really isn't much I can do but to somehow overcome my longstanding career anxiety, so how my situation is alleviated or resolved will hopefully be revealed as this year progresses. But even I have been knowingly keeping my parents in the dark and not confiding in them because they are under a lot of stress about me anyway. Sometimes I seem to have all the answers, yet you will be surprised that I do not. I just try my best. So far, it has brought me to a higher level of positive energy, an exercise routine, and more hopefulness for the future.
Bridging that gap between people who don't have mental illness or don't know what living with it can be like, is not easy to accomplish. Commitment, compassion, patience, and understanding the symptoms such as they are is how this barrier will slowly be reduced and eliminated. At the right time and with the best approach, I will share everything I have been blogging about here with my parents when appropriate. It isn't their fault for not having been exposed to mental health issues during their life experiences, so it will also depend on me to bridge the gap between them as well. Where there is a loved one, there will be a way.
Now, to take some time away from such seriousness I wanted to do another Famous Person blog post since I've been so caught up in mental health and awareness since November. Who I have in mind is so well known for his work in filmmaking that just his last name is widely recognized by many people.
Without further ado, I present to you Mr. Steven Spielberg.