“For goodness sake, why do we need to celebrate that?”
Here’s why: Research shows that in any year, more than one in five of us will experience some type of mental health problem – it’s universal.
Let’s face it, we all experience negative thoughts and feelings from time to time – that’s life. Having mental health issues is when we get stuck in those feelings.
At this time mental health is a particular challenge to those living with limited resources, like the unemployed, those struggling on low income, even those with limited savings. Now many are battling to simply survive. Most are somehow worried about their future survival, even if it just boils down to paying the bills.
Then it seems to be an even greater challenge to youth. For many young people Lockdown has limited their opportunities for socializing. But now they even have difficulty envisaging a meaningful future. Given the deep uncertainties around the pandemic, the economic implications, the concerns of climate change, what do the youth have to look forward to? What sort of careers can they envisage?
So focusing on mental health; learning to manage our thoughts and feelings, becomes even more important at this time. That’s why we celebrate mental health awareness month.
But what can we do to cope better with all our challenges; with our confused, fearful and frustrated feelings?
Firstly do remember this: you are not your problems. Your challenges are your life experiences. So you are not Confused Clive, or Fearful Fred, or Angry Andile, or Sad Sipho.
You are a living, adaptive being with the potential to overcome your life challenges and to optimise your life opportunities. And that is even more important when things are tough.
Mental health challenges don’t define your identity. They are just a description of your struggle to cope with some life challenges ‘in the moment’. Remember it’s all about thoughts and feelings.
Emotional challenges only become a mental health issue when you get stuck in them, and they then lead to unresourceful responses. As a creative being you can learn to generate more appropriate responses.
Mental health awareness is all about removing the stigma attached to experiencing mental challenges.
So don’t feel bad about feeling bad – feelings are just an indication of a life adjustment that is needed.
Of course when you’re feeling bad it’s often difficult to know what is going on. That’s why it’s so important to reach out to someone; to help you gain perspective.
Studies in France relating to coping with mental health in the pandemic showed that even knowing help was available in the makeshift walk-in centres they put up, helped people feel better – just knowing help was available.
The philosopher, Spinosa, said this: “Feelings that are stressful become less so when you have a clearer idea of what is behind them.” That’s why getting help is so important.
You can do something about your feelings – work with them and plan – any ‘plan’ is better than no ‘plan’.