Mental health awareness is more than a week.
My teenage son woke up a few weeks ago and said “You know who I am praying for? I am praying for the people who are dealing with depression and anxiety. I know how hard it was for me when I was depressed to be confined to my bed and in the house. Even though I was depressed and didn’t want to go anywhere, it was very hard to be in one space all the time. This sheltering-in has got to be very difficult for anyone with anxiety and depression.”
This is the young man that he is. In the midst of his grieving during the hardest time in his life, he is tuned in to what others are going through. He is a true empath and as a result has experienced really difficult times. I empathize with his heart, it is similar to mine only the intensity for him is on turn up.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that so many of us are reporting increases in depression and anxiety during this unprecedented time in our lives. For people of color who are already on assault throughout the world, but most especially in this country, the additional pressure is leaving us wide open for mental, emotional and physical distress.
For our children, anxiety continues to rise as they live this new life and watch those who are responsible for keeping them safe react to the pressures of our collective crisis.
As Mental Health Awareness Week comes and goes, I am encouraging all of us to make this our focus on a daily basis. I’ve both battled and given in to depression throughout my life all while presenting a beaming smile, quick wit and that ever famous response, “I’m fine, how are you?”
While that is one scenario, where we are really missing the boat is assuming that people are feeling down and fried because, hey, we all are. But it’s different for those who were already on the verge or full blown there before corona hit. The permission to be in the space of breaking down because we all are endangers those who sincerely need attention, empathy and a life raft.
Corona is only amplifying the issues that needed addressing long before it hit. We must not let each other down in this dawning of another chance to change the course of history. Anyone and everyone can feel anxious, depressed, scared, hopeless, overwhelmed and yes suicidal. Anyone! We all can feel weak (liable to yield, break or collapse under pressure and strain). There’s no shame in that. This is why we need each other’s strength.
So what can we do for each other?
Remember that classic song Lean On Me by Bill Withers?
You can listen here: Lean On Me by Bill Withers.
He got it right. “We all need somebody to lean on.” Those words have always been true and even more powerful now.
1. Make it ok for others to not be okay. Put it on the table like anything else. Normalize it.
2. Make time to listen to your children’s fears, complaints and challenges.
3. Recognize that working on good mental health is as important as working on physical health and all muscles need to be developed.
4. Take care of yourself and reach out for help when you need it.
5. Encourage others to seek help when they need it.
6. Validate the fact that “being strong” includes acknowledging when you feel like you can’t take anymore.
7. Be kind and loving and patient with yourself and others.
8. Advocate for your children, elders and those who truly cannot do it for themselves.
9. Find a release. Write, paint, sing, scream, vent, cry, talk to someone.
10. Keep checking in with yourself and your loved ones.
We need to lean on each other in order to stand together and make sure that we come out of this ready to take on the challenges that have kept us apart. Putting mental health upfront humanizes all of us. Admitting vulnerability creates a path for change.
I am walking that path with you. Take my hand.