How much do you know about the mental and emotional health of your friends, family or co-workers? We frequently figure that it’s none of our business, but what we know can make a difference if we come upon someone in crisis. We may not know exactly what’s going on with someone, but since every interaction we have is an opportunity for positive influence, saying the right things to a person in crises can be important. Our own individual mental health exists on a continuum…a ‘lifespan status’ of where our behavioral health is at a given time. This status changes based on various stages, symptoms, early warning signs and based on whether or not we take preventative measures to mitigate these things. Everyone’s individual spot on the continuum is not a concreted, binary position, where we are either ‘mentally healthy’ or ‘mentally ill’. Michelle Walshe, for The National Alliance on Mental Health, describes how the stigma for people with conditions such as obesity, AIDS and leprosy has improved over the last two decades either by medical advances, legislation or simply by increased public attention. Behavioral health concerns however, while somewhat improved in the last 10 years, still frequently brings on an awkward reaction from people.
Walshe pointed out how people will quickly respond with some kind of first aid in a public place if someone is bent over in obvious pain, calling for help or bleeding. We stop, alarmed. We offer first aid and we call for help. However, she notes that we frequently carry a double standard when it comes to mental health. When we see someone extremely withdrawn, or highly agitated, crying, detached, disassociated from reality the response is very different. This is often because bystanders are afraid and just don’t know what kind of first aid to offer someone experiencing mental health symptoms. If it’s someone we know we might offer some verbal encouragement, but just as a kind word won’t repair a broken arm, verbal encouragement alone won’t cure a clinical depression. However, educating ourselves on what kind of mental health first aid we could offer is a place to start.
This simple act of self-education can be the small thing we each do to help move us toward a better response to people experiencing behavioral health challenges. A short visit to these websites can help us learn some basics about what behavioral health challenges might look like and what to suggest to those in emotional or psychological pain: www.rethink.org, www.mhanational.org and www.camh.ca/mentalhealth101.
Our Texoma area community also has a number of online resources to learn about mental health, learn about emotional health, recognize signs and symptoms and to learn of resources where you can refer people for help and or treatment: www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org, www.texomabhlt.org, www.herefortexas.com or www.mentalhealth.gov.
The of Mental Health Matters is always to bring good information to our readers and prompt them to consider new ways to approach mental health. We encourage readers to educate themselves and seek to approach others compassionately, and curious about what small act we could do that might contribute to the overall goal of leaving no one in our community behind, alone or hurting.
Andrea Mory is a human resources and management professional and a certified Trust Based Relational Intervention Practitioner. She has collaborated over the last 20 years with the private practice MoryTherapy to develop training and education programs related to behavioral health. Learn more at www.morytherapy.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.