Plain and simple.
We HAVE to do Better.
Granted, there IS a lot of "talk" around mental illness these days. Those who live with it are encouraged to talk about it. We hashtag it. We have special days where we talk about it. We throw around buzz words and catchy phrases such as:
"End the stigma"
"Get it out there"
and so on....
Yes, there is a lot of talk about it and more awareness being made of it.
Sadly though, that's where it mostly ends. Lots of talk but no real action and talking alone without action is not enough. It's like two parallel lines, running along side by side, going on forever and ever, but never touching let alone intersecting. It's time to change those parallel lines into perpendicular ones where the "talk" intersects with the "action."
Basic math tells us with any equation, what's done to one side of the equation, must be done to the other side. It won't balance or work if you don't.
It's the same with mental illness. What's done to one side, must be done to the other if we actually want a solution. Talking about it by those who live with it must be met with action from those who connect with the folks who live with it.
Are you a business owner or employer with employees who struggle with mental illness? Are you a teacher, professor or principal with students who live with mental illness? A pastor with parishioners who struggle? A person with a friend who struggles? You are in a position of being able to help, to take action, to put this talk into practice, to be the balance to the other side of the mental health equation?
Why not be that change, that trend starter, the one who takes action and makes this a thing to do?!
Wouldn't it be great to have a mental health action day, complete with a hashtag all its own?! (something like... #methalhealthactionday). An opportunity for businesses, places of employment, employers, schools, colleges, universities, friends etc., to showcase the action they are taking in their business, their workplace, their church, their school or their life, to make it a mentally healthy place to work, learn or be? A chance to show what they are doing to promote health. You know, walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
Since we're on the topic of action, here's a hint: Piling it on, in the form of more work and higher expectations of more work, whether it's students or employees, is NOT the needed action. This may seem like a no brainer, but it's amazing the number of work places and schools that expect just this. Talk about it one day, do nothing the next and make it worse the next. This needs to be talked about and changed, just as much as mental illness itself.
It's also astounding to see all of the "health programs and courses" being taught where "health" is (stated to be) the central topic but in actuality, unhealthy practices are thrust upon the students throughout their years of study. We hear, read and teach concepts such as "eat well" "sleep enough" "reduce stress" "work/life balance" "exercise" etc. etc., but at the same time pile more work and higher expectations on our students with no time for them to incorporate these healthy concepts into their daily lives. Where is the health promotion in all of this? The very basic building blocks of good health they are being taught are not allowed or provided for them. This disconnect is a recipe for health disaster not a model to illustrate health.
Let's teach by example Walk the walk. Practice what is preached.
Anxiety, depression and suicide are high among our young people, yet we continue to throw more and more at them. The already high cost of schooling continues to rise. Many have to work numerous hours in addition to their school hours in order to pay for it. As if the cost of schooling isn't high enough, we add on top of that, expensive equipment, books and extras which pushes that bar even higher. We overload their days of school -- the exams, the reports, labs, outreaches, internships...the list goes on. Work harder. Longer hours. Higher costs. All this work, which must be accomplished at hyper speeds, increasing as fast as possible -- promotes health how??
How about employers? What are they doing to promote health and well-being in their business? Healthy employees (physically healthy as well as mentally healthy) earn bigger profits for their companies than those who are constantly ill. Investing in your employees' health (mental and physical) today, will increase your bottom line tomorrow. (I realize there are companies who do this and kudos to them, but they are in the minority).
How about employers of these students who are already dealing with mental health issues plus unhealthy lifestyles, overloaded workloads forced upon them by their schools, combined with stress of increasing education -- are they understanding of all a student goes through? How about understanding even a fraction of what these students go through?
Are people who deal with these businesses where these students work, aware?
It's beyond the time both sides come together. Those parallel lines of talking about it and "action" need to change to intersecting lines. Now is the time.
Just in case you feel you don't have time for this or it will ruin your business, your classroom, your school or your church, just remember, mental illness does not discriminate. Tomorrow it may be you or your family member that is facing mental illness. None of us are immune.
Talk talk talk + more work + no action = more anxiety
Enough already. Our current model is not working.
We HAVE to do better. Our families, our friends, our employees, our co workers -- all deserve better.
Kudos to all of you who struggle with mental illness every single day. You deserve better.
Balance......despite the chaos!