Well, term 4 starts tomorrow and it is Mental Health Awareness Week. I was wondering what wisdom I could share as a counsellor working in a school. By that I mean, what can I say that isn’t already googleable (no…that is definitely not a word).
Maybe that’s a good point to start with. There is sooooo much information online about mental health and unhealth/illness, that sometimes I wonder if young people actually come and talk to me with their diagnosis already sorted for them thanks to some online questionnaires. Not that this is bad or wrong but I get the feeling sometimes EVERY bad feeling or upset is being searched and the worst case scenario picked out. But I also acknowledge how distressing feeling intensely anxious, depressed, or hopeless can be. For some people it is a daily struggle to keep going and I know they are often the ones not talking to someone, not reaching out and quietly suffering.
I think it’s important to realise feeling sad, angry, upset, worried, anxious in themselves is not a mental health diagnosis. Stress is also really normal, and freaking out over exams, feeling overwhelmed by stuff is part of the roller coaster of life. Sometimes I wonder if the happiness bar has been set too high, everyone expects to be feeling good, happy, ecstatic, sweet as. But I reckon a more accurate description of a good mental health indicator is if you feel ‘meh’ to ok-alright. That’s kind of the base-line for most people, but for some reason people start freaking out if they aren’t happy, joyful, excited and loving life 24/7!
So I want to put some balance back in the picture of mental health. Freak outs about speeches, exams, performances, other things like that are common, normal things. Feeling tired, worn out and mentally fatigued after a term of manic internals is understandable. Breaking down, being devastated, upset, by things like death, illness, any sudden grief or loss is healthy and natural.
My hope for this week is that the conversations about mental health acknowledge the vast range of normal emotions – including the not so pleasant ones, because without them we get out of balance and that is where the trouble begins. Dealing with abuse, bullying, harassment, significantly impacts on mental health. Worry about gender or sexuality as well, so if you are worried about any of those things yourself or about a friend – talk to someone, try a school counsellor – just take one for a couple of test drives and see how it goes. Or contact someone like youthline.
Hope everyone has a great first week back.