I suffered from a lack of access to mental health education
Warning trigger: mentions of mental health issues such as depressive thoughts and panic attacks
At first, it seems like an easy idea to get comfortable with: self-loathing thoughts as you walk around.
You think, “Well, I could do that and still pretend there’s nothing wrong with hating yourself.” It is normal not to have hope when you wake up.
You can continue to be like this for as many days as you can to maintain your distractions and denials. You eat, sleep, watch the frenzy. You think of someone who can help you.
But, you feel like you will only be a burden to that “someone”, and that they don’t deserve to put up with you and your problems. All of a sudden there is this weight that you feel on the top of your head, like an adult person is sitting on top of your head.
Panic attacks can be triggered
You feel this crushing weight and you feel short of breath. It’s stuffy and tight. You are filled with so much pain in your chest that you just don’t want to be. That’s it! You just don’t want to be here.
You want to be the air, the darkness, but not you. This is what I’m talking about: a panic attack.
It is not random. It is an accumulation of self-destructive thoughts of days, months, and maybe even years.
And when it breaks you, you want to fall into something that looks like a pillow.
So when someone asks you for help, you have to have that sense of understanding that could be their last hope in a battle they have been fighting for a very long time, with themselves.
Even if you are a stranger, there is a lot you can do for someone who is not feeling well emotionally and mentally. You just listen and if you respond, make it a nice one.
Treat others with kindness
I say this because more often than I can admit I have always been treated kindly, in difficult times, by complete strangers. But, now I also know that there is an inherent risk and danger in approaching strangers when you are vulnerable and need help.
You could be the prey of vultures. I have heard and seen these dangers. So, follow this path carefully and seek help through the appropriate channels: both online and offline. So, I’ve always felt a void in our society for the kind of help that isn’t taken seriously.
Whenever I wanted to feel heard and seen in difficult times, I sought unbiased help from someone who was not in my life.
Therapy, counseling, psychologists, psychiatrists: these are still taboos in my mind. Taboo, that I am inferior in order to be vulnerable. Taboo, that I have to do this in the first place to live.
Mental health education is important
And, I am aware of my role in such a grand scheme of distorted thought patterns.
I am one of the lucky ones who have a home, parents and a life that can accommodate my therapy, my advice, my meetings with psychologists and psychiatrists.
My argument, or you can say, my plea, is that there has to be an appropriate and accessible structure for help, when it comes to people in distress, mental and emotional. Mental health education is not only about the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders like bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.
It should be more accessible, less taboo, and more normal, for humans to receive help in areas that they find it difficult to adapt or cope with or live with. Body and mind are inseparable when it comes to the well-being of a human being.
Unhealthy coping patterns
Mental health education needs to be comprehensive, scalable and progressive, and not just on hotline numbers. Mental health education should focus on healthy coping mechanisms, rather than defense mechanisms.
It should also be about appropriate ways of building relationships, gentler ways of dealing with trauma, correlations between physical development and mental well-being.
Overall, it should be about knowing and accepting that life can be trying and even uncomfortable at times. We should take the time to process it, deal with it at our own pace, and move on.
Here are some of the standardized, but unhealthy, notions about managing grief, pain, and life in general:
1. Co-dependence and resulting emotional immaturity
2. Defense mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs and sex
3. Abusive relationships and gender-based violence
I am neither a professional nor a politician to address this issue. Whatever I have shared here, please take it with a pinch of salt. Challenge, evaluate, and come to your own conclusions.
It is not my intention to blame or recommend anyone through this piece. I just wanted to talk about the unbearable disappointment and discomfort that I personally feel about the lack of access to mental health education in my own life.