How are you feeling today? When presented with this question do you think only about aches and pains, or do you also think about your mental state? Many of us walk around each and every day with a million things on our mind. Thoughts that occupy your mind will actually determine how you feel. So when asked that question again, think about how you feel mentally. We are always told to take care of our body because it’s the only one we have. Well, that should apply to our mind also.
When you feel bad mentally how do you react to others around you? Do you do and say things that cause even bigger issues? Afterwards do you regret some things you have said or done, or do you think nothing of it? If someone tells you that you hurt their feelings, does it bother you? These are questions that need to be asked, but are usually asked only in counseling sessions.
I have occasionally asked people I know “What do you think will happen if you stood on the corner and started screaming?” It often gives me some insight into how that person feels about mental health. How do you think mental health is viewed in our society? Are you comfortable speaking about your thoughts and feelings? If someone you know asked for your help, what would you do? There are many approaches and questioning opportunities that can help a person begin to think about how they really feel. One main problem is many seldom get the chance until something bad happens.
I recently had a discussion with an acquaintance who described how not taking mental health more seriously can have a lasting impact on you and those closest to you for years to come. She spoke with me about what she described as the unraveling of her sister’s mental health due to lack of knowledge or understanding about mental health and her mother’s denial. She described how as a young child she watched her sister engage in conversations when there was clearly no one there and exhibit other behaviors that were so extreme and contrary to the rest of her family members, she sensed something was wrong. She discussed these behaviors over and over with her mother and continuously begged her mother to seek help for her sister. She was met with denial and the belief that she would grow out of it. Because this took place back in the early seventies in a small southern town, she had two things working against her, the lack of society’s knowledge about mental health and her mother’s fear of being ostracized.
Fast forward to forty years later; her sister has still not received any help. She has floated from one unhealthy relationship to another, become the mother of two children, and spent years self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs. Her life as well as the lives of her children, siblings, mother, and plenty of others she has come into contact with has been negatively affected in some way because of the decision to look the other way early on. She will never know if getting her sister help back then would have made things turn out any differently, but it would have been worth a try. She is now headed back to that same small town to figure out how to do what should have been done so long ago, and yes, her mother is still in denial and won’t discuss it.
So, how do you really feel?