Mental Health Awareness Week; a different take on awareness
Updated: Jul 20
Its Mental Health Awareness week and so I started reflecting on the purpose of raising awareness. Of course its important culturally so help is more readily available, doors are open to having necessary conversations with people like our employers and it also sets the foundations for more meaningful things such as understanding and acceptance.
In our personal lives this doesn’t seem quite as simple, I often hear peoples discontent at not being understood by partners, parents, friends or anyone else. The awareness is there about what they are dealing with, be it mental health problems, physical health problems or any other life challenges, but other peoples awareness doesn’t seem to lead to their understanding.
Can anyone truly understand what anyone else is feeling or going through at a personal level and why is this something we long for?
Community and belonging have always been important for human beings, and it has been well documented and studied that there are very real health and mental health impacts of loneliness and that social connectedness is critical for good health.
When you think of this in terms of our pre historic ancestors it makes perfect sense, as cave men and women we lived in tribes, these were essential to our survival. We wouldn’t last long on our own against threats in our everyday lives such as sabre tooth tigers and other tribes. Although we no longer have these threats we are still hard wired to feel safety and contentment in a group.
The daily occurrences that scare and stress us in todays society aren’t as easy for our clan to protect us against. Emails, traffic jams, a mountain of house chores, childhood traumas and paying bills, can’t be chased away with a big stick (if only!). There is no longer a one size fits all way for our nearest and dearest to show us support, it’s become personal.
During my recovery from ME/CFS there were times when I was in a dark low place. My husband is ‘Mr Positive and lets get on with it’, so when I was feeling like the world was coming in on me he would want to jolly me along. This would often make me feel worse as I wanted so much to be able to jolly along with him but couldn’t. I found myself annoyed that he wasn’t giving me what I needed and he was annoyed that I was immune to his most upbeat efforts. I remember him saying that he didn’t know what it was that I wanted him to do and it dawned on me that I had no clue what that was either. I then took the time to understand what it was that I needed when I was in this dark place, and realised it was to be physically held and told it would be ok, when I communicated this to him and he did it the next time I was struggling it made all the difference for us both. I felt like I was getting what I needed and he felt like he was helping. Those around us can often feel hopeless and frustrated because they want to fix things, so giving them something they can do to help can be a relief for all involved.
So I feel that awareness is important for two reasons, there is the awareness of society and our tribe for what we are dealing with but there’s also our own awareness of what we need as individuals to help us through it.
So think about this now, what do you require from those around you? Do you want a hug? Do you want space to have a rant? Do you want them to tell you it will all be ok? (even if they don’t know that to be true). Do you want someone to give you some time to have a cuppa and a chat?
Understanding what we need and communicating it to our tribe can be a huge part in feeling like we are supported and belong. It may be that they can’t fully give us what we want and a compromise has to be reached, but this is often still a vast improvement.
So have a think, what do you need to be emotional held, supported and accepted?
If you want to have conversations with those around you, sharing this post with them could be a way to open the conversation.
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