CAN MENTAL HEALTH BE FIXED, HEALED OR SOLVED?
WRITTEN BY SUANNE LA ROSE
A wise doctor once asked this question, “When you have a headache do you take something for it?”
The reply was, “Yes of course!”
“Then why won’t you honour your mental health and do or take something for it?”
Such a simple solution, and yet, the step towards action is still, after forty years, one of the hardest actions to take. Why do you ask? I believe that it has to do with the STIGMA around Mental Health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing are all part of our mental health. It helps determine how we handle stress, how we make choices and relate to others. How we think, feel, and act also affects our mental health. As of January, this year according to the WHO there are about 264 million people of all races, social backgrounds, and ages living with depression – a state of Mental Health. This makes depression the number one leading illness in the world.
How incredibly scary is this? 264 MILLION people – ILL? And the even scarier thought is that less than half seek out help.
Why would human beings who are suffering from Mental Health not want to find a way to get help?
I believe for two reasons:
One: The stigma around Mental Health and
Two: Information that there IS help available.
I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a Future Forward Hub conversation with the Contributors Karin Monster-Peters, Gareth Stubbs and Verushka Weyers to talk about MENTAL HEALTH.
This is what made this conversation super engaging:
Gareth is ‘diagnosed’ with Schizophrenia as a Mental Disorder.
Karin is a Psychologist and Healer – whose brother is ALSO Schizophrenic.
Verushka is a qualified and award-winning Nurse who deals daily with mothers who have to deal with mental challenges and very little support.
HOW DO 'THEY' DEAL WITH MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES?
We have the definition of Mental Health from the WHO, however, I think it’s important that we address the following:
Karin: “We are using Mental Health as a term and Mental Health as a diagnosis. But Mental Health is not a diagnosis. You have a Mental Health disorder, you have a mental health challenge. But you don’t have mental health. You are mentally healthy. Or mentally unhealthy…it is a state of being. The World Health Organization states: “Mental health is defined as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Mental health is what we want. HEALTH…the mental type…LOL! We battle mental challenges, we battle mental health issues…we battle through mental health disorders and diagnoses.
Karin speaks of ‘healing’.
Where some understand healing under ‘fixing’, Karin explains that she sees it as ‘Being Aware’.
That is all.
Being aware of your mental health rather than hiding it or seeing it as a weakness. Don’t let this stigma control you!
Gareth speaks of how he now realises that even battling through Schizophrenia his whole life, that he isn’t broken. He is a constant work in progress. Gareth takes the broken pieces and turns them into doodles as he silences the voices in his head, this is part of his own therapy and making peace with the different pieces of himself. How beautiful and amazing is that?
And Verushka, a professional nurse, who works in the neonatal ICU and pediatric ICU, sees first-hand how family’s mental health can be challenged by the trauma of their child getting heart surgery or the unexpected death of their newborn. These challenges change what is supposed to be a joyous moment in their lives, whether you’re a brand-new mom who’s just given birth to a stillborn baby or a young child battling a disease. Losing precious new loved ones, unfair battles on a little one that can’t comprehend things definitely has its toll on one’s mental health. These moments and losses also have an effect on nurses. Nurses are there walking the families through this challenge, they form bonds with you, the form bonds with the babies and children (nurses are superhero’s with big hearts and big emotions). When something goes wrong, the nurses also are affected. This is why communication is key, in everything said and done.
FIXED OR SOLVED?
Like any other health issues, Mental Health can’t be solved or fixed. People are not your favourite classic car that needs a good polish and an oil change. Mental Health can be monitored, treated, and somewhat managed to an extent, allowing us to function in the necessary environments. It is a state of being free from illness or injury.
So, what are we trying to solve, what are we attempting to fix and what are we imaging we can heal?
I do believe wholeheartedly that we can heal to a degree from the hurt, from the judgment, the guilt (man this can be so big sometimes) that comes from Mental Health. And each of our contributors has confirmed this through sharing their journey and experience with Mental Health. They each have their own beautiful story of dealing with Mental Health challenges and how they faced their demons. And for some facing demons that didn’t even belong to them.
Karin our resident healer and psychologist (she has the most contagious laughter) carries around some pretty heavy demons that belong to her younger brother who deals with his schizophrenia daily. I don’t know if Karin realizes that this is part of the beauty of who she is, she didn’t choose this, her brother didn’t choose to be schizophrenic but together they champion and cheer for each other and for others. Some days aren’t easy, and no one ever said life would be easy, but when you have people in your corner, cheering for you and holding your hand, the world seems less dark. Your Mental Health challenge doesn’t need to be solved, and neither do you need to be fixed.
Verushka shared two interesting examples of how professionals don’t listen and hear what their patients are saying and can be quick to diagnose without doing the necessary tests or any medical investigations i.e. just wanting to ‘solve or fix’ a problem and not looking for the CAUSE.
One was where her children were said to be “too active” and then requested to have them put on “calming” medication. These professionals are teachers, they are the adults we trust and leave our children with. If Verushka wasn’t in the medical field, would have blindly taken the advice and placed them on medication?
The second time Verushka noted in her life that she was taking strain and her emotions were a bit of a rollercoaster ride, the general practitioner diagnosed her at being bipolar, again just blind diagnosis, no questions about history and no tests done.
It’s vital to not always rely on professionals but to also use your intuition or common sense and get second or third or fourth opinions! Professionals don’t always know the right answers or say the right things, but they should be listening to you, so if you find yourself not being heard, find someone else to walk beside you in your journey.
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Many factors play a role in Mental Health, it is not all just one problem. There are specific personality and psychological factors that make people vulnerable to Mental Health challenges. There are a few more types of mental disorders that the human race suffers from like: anxiety, depression, ADHD, dementia, post-traumatic stress, (usually situational), psychotic, and bipolar disorder.
For some, Mental Health can sometimes be seen as a cloak, an excuse for their ‘crappy’ behaviour. This can be incredibly annoying, and a bit of a slap in the face for those people who live with their disorder and fight their demons on a regular basis. Not everyone uses their “disorder” as a cloak but unfortunately, this happens and is partly why Mental Health STIGMA’s arise.
Stigmas give a disorder a bad name and often lead to those who NEED the help, not seeking it, for fear of being labelled under that stigma.
Some words of guidance: Please don’t judge a person because you cannot understand what they are feeling or going through. A Mental Health challenge or disorder is not just something in their heads and it is not something they chose! Please don’t tell someone who is depressed or struggling through a mental disorder to just snap out of it. Saying things like this can do more emotional damage than good. Snapping my fingers to turn my frown upside down and smile at you sincerely, isn’t that easy. Especially when all one wants is to be seen, and have my emotions heard. Additionally, you can’t empathize with me and think that mere words will do the trick, they don’t.
Gareth has the first-hand experience of how dark this journey can be, sometimes he can’t make it out of bed, not because he is sad or lazy… his demons get better of him. Gareth doesn’t let his disorder define him. More healing and power to you Gareth, we stand by you, we stand in your corner. To everyone battling Mental Health, find your tribe, hold their hands, and reach out, for those of you who know someone battle, check in on them and then check in on them again.
We are not defined by our illness, our shortcomings or our challenges.
I have rolls of fat but that doesn’t make me fat, I suffer from depression, but that doesn’t make me depressed all the time.
Do you hear what I am saying?
The world, society, the people on social media platforms, encourage us to #selfcare, #loveourselves, which can be the easy thing to say but not the easy thing to put into place and it’s not as simple as picking up a book “Dummies guide to getting over being Bipolar”, it’s not as easy as joining a support group! Most of the healing process and the managing process comes from years of getting the right help. Talking to someone qualified, taking the necessary medications, learning where you fail and how to get back up again. These are a few of the things that can assist with healing (being aware).
As an outsider we too can be part of the healing process, check in on your friends, listen to, don’t judge and just be present. This is your journey; you get to choose who you want travelling the hills and the valleys with! You and your journey matter!
Mental Health is not something you can fix or solve. It can be healed by being aware of it.
Being aware is seeing the CAUSE and not just the problem. Also, by being aware, you’re also seeing the disorder for what it is and not making it your identity. You are so much MORE than that. When you’re aware, be sure to invite support into your space that will listen and be present with you. There is no need to CHANGE you. But heal what is causing the disorder and challenges.
By healing, you’re also TAKING BACK THE CONTROL. In other words, you aren’t being controlled by your Mental Health disorder or challenge. You aren’t defining yourself by it. You are taking back your power to control IT.
With over 264 million people worldwide suffering from Mental Health disorder and challenges. Let’s choose to be KIND and SUPPORT one another. By BREAKING the STIGMA!
I leave you with this from the author Brené Brown
“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.”