Updated: Nov 20, 2019
Mental Health: Start the Conversation | Mindfulpath
“How are you today?”
How many of us believe we can answer that question truthfully? Maybe we woke up and feel sad about a loved one’s illness or we are stressed about an upcoming work presentation. But instead of saying how we feel to another person who cares about us, we say, “fine” with a half smile, and go about our activities. We take whatever we’re feeling and push it down or push it away in an effort to get through another day.
This small example is a missed opportunity for connection. It’s a missed opportunity for support. It’s a missed opportunity to feel seen by another. And as we miss those connections, we can become more and more isolated, believing that we are the only ones who suffer in this way, and that no one else can understand how we feel.
This week, Mental Health Awareness Week, is an invitation to start a conversation. So often we reserve conversations about mental health for when there’s a problem or crisis. Perhaps we avoid talking about mental health because we don’t know what to say or we hold the belief that talking about something might make it worse. The reality however, is that talking about difficult topics is more likely to make things better. That’s when healing can happen. That’s when a sense of community can be felt. That’s when we no longer feel isolated because we’ve spoken our truth and someone else has heard us.
We would tell a friend if we had strep throat, but would we say anything if we were feeling depressed? Why isn’t mental health treated the same as physical health? There’s a good chance we know where the closest gym is to home, but do we know where the closest mental health center is? Why is preventive medicine only spoken about in terms of physical illness and not mental? The truth is, mental health is something we all have but we rarely talk about. Taking care of our mental health applies to everyone.
How many of us have felt joy, anger, sadness? How many of us have felt alone, isolated in the belief that we are the only one who suffers this way? We may not have had the same experiences in life, but we can unite with similar emotions. We can shift the dialogue to include self-care, such as having a meal at home with family, taking a yoga class, going to therapy, or turning our phones off in the evenings, in service of our mental health. There doesn’t have to be a crisis to have a conversation; and we can start that conversation today.
It’s as simple as saying, “I’m feeling ________, have you ever felt that way?”
Be brave. Extend the invitation and start a conversation. Reach out for help if you need it. Ask questions. Give encouragement. Words are powerful. Use them wisely, truthfully, and fearlessly.