|Posted on July 14, 2018 at 1:05 AM|
Why do I take advocating for mental health awareness so seriously, such as treating people with respect and avoiding confrontational behavior?
When you are dealing with a person's emotional well-being or mental health, it is very important to do more good than harm. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is simply by being as considerate as possible of their feelings. You will only worsen someone's mental health with intentionally negative behavior. For example, I have been bullied ever since high school and as recently as this year. I was personally oppressed by a member of this community for my respectfully expressed political views. Her silence has caused anxiety and paranoia that she may turn others against me. A former classmate vindictively bullied me on Facebook for my views on LGBTQIA+ despite supposedly being a supporter himself. Both of them knew I had a past history of being bullied. The first one also knew that I have mental health diagnoses. Yet, they were intentionally hostile because of their hateful motivations.
So I ask myself, "Should I be treated like this especially if it hurts my mental health?" Absolutely not. Neither should anyone else with or without mental health issues. I take my advocacy very seriously, because I know what being oppressed and intentionally bullied feels like. Miserable, threatened, worthless, as if you shouldn't fit in socially or don't belong on this world at all. Bullying behavior has become a serious problem in our society and a lot more action needs to be done to stop it. If someone demeans you by saying nasty and hateful comments, or threatens to follow you off the city bus and assault you for the outfit you wear (which happened to someone I know), these actions hurt your emotional well-being. I do recognize a need to balance being too hard or soft on someone. Negative bullying behavior, however, serves no purpose but to inflict harm on a person who is probably already struggling.
As the age-old adage goes, "Why can't we all just get along?" Treat others the way you would want to be treated. You won't be perfect or respectful every time or with everyone. I know this just as well as anyone. I have my days where I don't think before I speak, but you sincerely apologize and try to do better next time. And I do mean a genuine, honest apology too. Last year, at the County's annual NAMI Recovery Conference, two representatives from our local Department of Veterans Affairs gave a presentation on mindfulness. This was the very first time I had attended any discussion at length about the topic. What I discovered afterwards was a profound moment in my life. I realized how and why I had been able to cope with my mental illness for all these years. By knowing yourself and regarding how you treat others, which is informal mindfulness, I could also focus on bullying with my mental health advocacy.
This was my reaction once I discovered I could legitimately target bullying along with mental health awareness. And it should be a priority too. I care how I treat people because I care very much about how I am treated. Particularly when it comes to those who have mental health conditions such as Anorexia, Autism, Transgender Identity, Social Anxiety, or Major Depressive Disorders. These diagnoses are either caused or are made much worse by negative behavior. Just a series of nasty remarks can easily have demoralizing effects lasting for months or years. While treating someone like a "snowflake" with "safe spaces" takes it to the opposite extreme, intentionally confronting a person to cause emotional harm only makes matters worse. The longer this trend continues the tougher it will be to achieve mental health acceptance. When advocating, it has also been very important to avoid being unintentionally confrontational too.
During my first time posting public blogs, between 2009 and 2010 as a student attending Penn State Altoona, I had noticed a trend with social media that I felt was troubling. People would post blogs declaring their opinions or unsubstantiated points of view as facts. Or they would make inflammatory comments on websites, such as Twitter, and accomplish nothing except to anger many people who read what was posted. So, back then when I started blogging I made sure to present the topics I discussed in a straight forward, objective manner and kept my personal opinions to myself. I quickly realized the benefit of this approach when I started my advocacy in late 2016. Instead of making assumptions about mental health I could be mindful or would cite professional sources. Rather than causing an uproar by boasting personal opinions I would avoid being confrontational. Mental health should be taken this seriously because bullying is a major problem affecting mental health.
Not everyone, however, has made the same choice.
Since I last attended college during 2010, bullying behavior has worsened dramatically especially after the 2016 US Presidential Election. Racism, homosexuality and gender identity, conservative versus liberal ideologies as well as political or pro-Trump views, stigma and fear that still surround mental illness as opposed to mental health, have all become much more volatile issues in the public mind. Many people have seemed to care less about their ignorance and more about oppressing others sometimes without remorse. The unfortunate casualty of this is us; those caught in the middle of the social unrest. The more confrontational we are, or when it comes to mental health, the worse off we will all be. I advocate with such a priority of treating others with respect, and to avoid expressing inflammatory opinions, because I would be making things worse if I didn't. No one's mental health would improve.
So, I need to set a good example as an advocate and as a person if I ever hope to help improve mental health awareness.
People who identify as a different sexual orientation or gender identity are very contentious issues. How have I dealt with this when I advocate for mental health awareness?
In order for mental health acceptance to be achieved, I feel I need to be respectful and considerate of others. That means everyone, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+. Having un-coerced interest towards the same sex, knowing you feel your identity is the opposite gender since childhood, and so on, should not subject a person to intentional harassment, violence, or discrimination from anyone. Why? Do onto others as you would want others to do onto you. As long as the individual, who identifies as LGBTQIA+, is respectful and considerate towards their peers then they deserve as much of a right to be treated with respect and kindness as I do. Same as with people of a different skin color, age, gender, religious or political beliefs, mental health diagnoses, and the list goes on. However, as I'd said above, this issue has become much more challenging to deal with particularly when advocating for mental health awareness.
By anger and from fear, or stigma.
At least in this country, it has become more socially acceptable to intentionally lash out with bullying behavior than to be considerate of others regardless of the differences involved. The end result has been more confrontations, more animosity, suicide rates have gone up, and gun violence particularly in public schools has increased, rather than actual peaceable acceptance and cooperation to work towards getting along with each other. You don't have to accept everyone different from you, but do not go out of your way to harass someone unless you want to be treated the same way. No one should be oppressed or bullied to accept people either. Yes, this includes the National LGBT movement as well. Fighting fire with fire does not put the fire out. It makes matters worse. People feel angry, hateful, hated, defensive, or defenseless. In the end, no one's emotional well-being gets any better.
This includes the people who do honestly identify as LGBTQIA+, because they have an equally difficult time with social acceptance and their own mental health.
So, what should you do? To be honest, and in keeping with my objectivity, you really don't have to do anything I advise here. I have shared numerous well-thought out and very mindful points of view on a lot of issues related to mental health and awareness advocating. What I feel has worked and should achieve positive mental health improvements has been to treat people with mutual respect. If someone is of a different racial background from me, whether they are different by age, economic status, have any various mental health diagnoses, or identify as LGBTQIA+, I do - and advocate - onto everyone as I would want everyone to do onto me. This is a truly golden rule which will go a long way towards making a difference that matters even if you face stigma in your community.
July 15th, 2018: