The more I explore mental health in my counselling training, the more I see an issue not with the people who are struggling with stuff (which is most of us at some point) but rather, how the ones who these people are surrounded by (which I think also is most of us), respond to the ones who are struggling.
What is the nature of the discussions being had of people struggling some way in our communities? In our social circles? What stories are being told of people who are on the apparent-outer? Do the conversations come from an angle of judgement? Or of understanding?
I am beginning to think it is by no fault of any one individual that judgement might feel to be a more natural response to someone battling a ‘mental health problem’ but rather, it is a collective kind of learned cultural way-of-being that although silent, has a deep influence upon not only the people struggling,
but on all of us.
How will we feel inclined to respond when the struggle comes in close? What happens when ‘that person’ becomes a close friend? What happens when ‘that person’ becomes, dare I say it, our very own self?
How have we learned to respond to that sort of struggle in others? Because that will in some way shape how we respond and feel in those closer contexts too.
If we see those mental health struggles as something that represents only people on the outer, we might inadvertently become ambassadors for division rather than that of connectedness – not only in relationship with other people but also in relationship to ourselves.
Will we risk division? Or will we choose to try hold grace? To hold understanding?
For others? For ourselves?
I don’t think mental health is relegated to only people on the outer, I think whether directly or indirectly it includes all of us.
how we respond matters.