An Uncomfortable Topic – Our Mental Health

I asked a young woman how she was doing during these days of lockdown. She answered that she was having anxiety attacks. I was surprised at her honest response and kudos to her! I wish I would hear more of such responses. I paused for a moment to think how I could respond to her.

By Hopolang Phororo

I did not want to brush her aside… so, I probed a little more to find out how she felt when she was experiencing these attacks, what triggered them and what she would do. She explained further, as I encouraged her to express her feelings. I suggested that the next time she had one she could try breathing in slowly and deeply and prayed with her. That was all I could think of doing at the time and after the conversation, she indicated that she felt much better.

 I admired her courage to speak out about how she felt. Too often, I do not think we take time to listen to how people are really feeling, let alone ourselves. We ask the question “How are you?” out of habit and expect to hear “I’m well!” or “I’m good!” and not really wanting or expecting to hear anything contrary to that.

And if a person says that they are not well or are depressed, we often do not know what to say. Uncomfortable topic… Yet, we should embrace it fully because as emotional beings, it is normal that our emotions range from happy to fearful to depressed to guilt and the list goes on.

During my coaching sessions, I find that people struggle to name their emotions and then once identified, to tell me how these emotions make them feel. I think we are out of tune with ourselves or is it that we have we been socialised to numb our emotions? Strong and controlled people do not express their emotions but they hide them.

When people express their emotions, you hear comments, such as “That was a little much…” and “Oops, she is having a bad day…“ Worse still are the gender stereotype emotions – guys should express anger and contempt and girls, fear and happiness. Guys should be strong and not wimps.

What nonsense… Now if you ask me, I read in John 11:35 that “Jesus wept”, which is certainly not a sign of weakness but of strength. How could the same man die such a gruelling death on a cross, if he was weak? This was the epitome of strength displayed that none of us could ever endure.

Repressing our emotions in whatever ways, be it through alcohol or substance use, work and social media is not a solution. I cringe to think about the plethora of mental health issues lurking in our homes, as a result of the lost incomes, job losses and layoffs, home schooling children, etc… that has come with COVID-19. My prayer is that we begin to talk about these issues, whether people are uncomfortable or not… we not only rob ourselves of getting the help that we need but we also send the wrong messages to our children. The shame associated with depression and panic attacks can lead them down the road that we do not want to go – suicide… As Adam Ant says, “Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.”

 Let us stop treating mental health issues as taboo topics. Let us do away with the stigma and stop attaching labels to how we feel, but rather let us embrace and experience, however we are feeling. Let us refrain from passing judgement and be kind to each other!

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