Time seems to be flying by at break neck speeds. Seems like yesterday that I wrote about the topic I am broaching again this week. It is that time of year again. The annual Bell, Let’s Talk time. I like this yearly reminder that Bell puts on to bring awareness to the issue of mental health and the importance of talking about it. I feel saddened by the fact that mental health challenges seem to be on the rise and that there is not more done about it. Based on a recent news report only 7% of the national health budget goes towards mental health. As little as I know about health care or budgets that just does not seem right. I have been a vocal proponent of talking because I know how much it has helped me. And for those who have no clue what I am talking about I wish the reminders would come more often.
Over the course of the last year I have had numerous reminders of the benefits of talking. First of all the media attention has provided awareness. In my line of work clients often deal with various mental health issues. This can have a significant impact on how they deal with the stress and conflict in their lives. Having other participants aware of the effect of mental health challenges provides for better understanding and through that understanding a better approach to resolving issues.
Talking also benefits the person dealing with the mental health issues. Just recently I was involved in a conversation with a person who had “hit bottom”. They felt overwhelmed. They felt hopeless. They had no idea how they could ever get through the challenges they were facing. But through a recognition that help was needed they reached out and began talking. Through numerous conversations with different caregivers it did not take long for this person to begin a recovery and healing process. And in their words it is a matter of taking baby steps understanding that there will be days when it feels like one is slipping back. There are times when talking may not be the only requirement but it certainly is a good first step.
Through one conversation at a time this person was able to verbalize the hopelessness and anguish they felt. It is interesting, and I share this from my own experiences, that verbalizing the thoughts running uncontrollably through one’s head helps in sorting out what is real and what is unrealistic. That provides a certain amount of relief in itself. Often times people feel loathe sharing their thoughts because they perceive their issues to be humiliating and shameful. We feel isolated. We see no hope for the future. Being able to articulate that to a listening ear helps.
As a result of reaching out this person was provided with information that could help on the path to healing. Information for the mental health issues being experienced and information to address the circumstances that had pushed them over the edge. With this information the person knew there was hope. Knew that there was relief.
Again, as I have in the past, I will throw out a challenge to those that are fortunate enough not experience mental health concerns. Keep your eyes open. There are people around you that are hurting. Be prepared to listen. Be prepared to acknowledge. You don’t have to provide answers. You don’t have to be an expert. Just listen. Listen, normalize and validate. Simply provide support.
Just last night I heard a newscast on mental health. I was saddened to hear that suicide rates in Canada have not significantly reduced over the last number of years. That tells me that we need to do more. More awareness. More recognizing and reaching out. More talking. Make it a good one.