A call to change our perception towards mental health and offer support
With all that is happening in the news and being seen on social media, it is evident that supporting positive mental health should be a priority on every Nation’s agenda. Of course, issues such as communicable diseases, emergency medical care, cancer and other physical illnesses should also be seen as priorities, however, it is irrefutable how much emotional trauma can be directly correlated to an individual’s lack of good mental health. We are not simply speaking here of those clinically diagnosable mental conditions, but also highlighting very basic psychological concerns that our fellow man may be battling. Unfortunately, when a person’s mental health needs are not addressed it can at times result in tragic outcomes for the individual and others around them.
Young people are most vulnerable to maladaptive behaviours due to lack of positive mental health practices. This is evident not only in the Americas but also in United Kingdom Overseas Territories and yes even here in our beautiful by nature islands. Journalists in the Cayman Islands during the month of July 2018, released articles highlighting increased juvenile crime in the territory. These findings have reportedly been linked to lack of positive mental health practices. Hence the need to stress the importance of practicing psychological first aid at an early age, and for adults and professionals in youth professions to employ mindfulness at all times.
Why the need for psychological first aid?
It is customary to put a dressing on a cut or ingest antibiotics to treat an infection, right? In fact, these practices are so customary that one’s common sense may be brought into question if such techniques are not applied when necessary. So why isn’t the same true of our mental health? We are expected to just “get over” psychological wounds — when as anyone who’s ever experienced rejection or agonized over a failure knows only too well, emotional injuries can be just as crippling as physical ones. We therefore need to learn how to practice psychological first aid.
How can I practice psychological first aid with my children?
- Acknowledge their emotions, with keen attention to those which may result in negative thoughts/behaviours such as embarrassment, pain, guilt etc.
- Help them to rewire their initial reactions to failure (defense mechanism)
- Monitor and guard their self-esteem. Help them to not criticize and condemn themselves.
- Help them to find positive activities that will deter negative thoughts and produce positive ones
- Find meaning in loss
- Help them not to ruminate or linger in negative feelings.
Practicing emotional hygiene takes a little time and effort, but it will seriously elevate your entire quality of life.
Understanding the role, we play. Are we barriers to persons seeking help?
How many times have you or someone that you know insisted that a friend was “being bipolar” because they were moody, or maybe you labelled someone as depressed because they cried or (in your opinion) overreacted to a situation. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? The sad reality is that, yes, a lot of people will be able to say that they have heard these sorts of things being said on a daily basis. The use of mental illnesses as an adjective to describe certain emotions and sentiments has simply become a large component of our colloquial language. What is disturbing though is that many of us go further in labelling persons as “crazy” or “insane” and offer little to no encouragement to help channel individuals into appropriate mental health services. As a result of these types of statements or actions, many persons shy away from or are reluctant in seeking help because of how they think they may be viewed or labelled.
It is time for us to look at mental health from a different perspective. We must change the negative view that currently prevails about persons with mental health issues and seek ways to support better practices for our current and future generations.
Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence, 649-338-3613 Grand Turk or 649-338-4737 Providenciales