As I continue to gain exposure to different communities requiring support workers, volunteers and individuals who have insight into the causes and effects of mental health and addictions, I am driven to self-reflect a little more. As a Community Mental Health and Addictions Worker student, I’ve realized I have blogged about trauma, addictions, the importance of Aboriginal history, school life and self-care.
However, I have recently taken a step back to delve deep into the psychological aspects of self-care. Does it simply mean to exercise, eat right, smile as much as you possibly can and always strive for those unattainable and almost unrealistic traits where we continuously chase the happiness train? What about those days when we feel the static “cloudy day” emotions, where the clouds are grey, where our moods are gloomy and our spirits are low?
Thinking about all of this made me contemplate what kind of communities are we a part of. Do our communities promote mental wellness or do we keep hushed about it and walk with the stigmas engraved in our ways of thinking?
I am in the midst of reassessing how I communicate with people to avoid having negative assumptions about people’s responses. Imagine you are in line at a grocery store and see the person in front of you being aggressive and rude to the cashier. How do you respond? I know my initial reaction and response would be to be defensive and prepare myself for a verbal confrontation with the customer. But what if the customer just received tragic news. These two words make me reassess how I react and communicate with people…“What if?” Because you truly never know anyone’s situation, let alone their mental health status.
So, let’s go back to self-care and mental health. To truly grip and understand the importance of one’s mental wellness is fundamental. I believe it is crucial to be aware of where we stand amid our emotions, whether negative or positive. To practice knowing when to take a step back and observe and when to intervene and contribute within our communities. To be aware of how much emotional baggage we can handle and to know when to let go are additional strategies that are significant to growth while practising self-care.
Words of encouragement
Watching the news and reading about people taking their lives is harrowing. Recently we heard about a well-known celebrity chef who took his life, and a New York fashion designer found dead in her apartment who we later learned committed suicide. Mental illness is a serious and silent killer. We don’t know people’s battles, the challenges individuals face, and I can’t help but think about our encounters with people throughout our days and the stress they may be combating. I just hope we use words of encouragement and compassion rather than resentment and belittling.
It starts with talking about mental health and not hiding in the shadows of it. To communicate our realities and feelings to our families, friends, colleagues, classmates and within all of that, build a foundation of openness that enables a safe and well-connected environment.