There are many reasons as to why I am a proud Canadian! One reason in particular is because of how progressive and proactive Canada is and consistently is with respect to social consciousness, social awareness, inclusivity, public awareness and education. There will always be an ongoing road to travel to continuously meet the needs of all sectors of individuals who fall within the ‘isms’ – those who are marginalized, oppressed, disenfranchised, those who fall within minority type groups, and those who feel stigmatized.
As someone who was once deeply immersed and entrenched within the field of social services for 25 years in my previous vocation as a Senior Manager within crisis management specifically, this subject, and many other inter-connected type subjects, will always remain near and dear to my heart, as well as a pivotal point of interest and concern.as a fellow human being who is very much impassioned by humanity as a whole.
One never forgets being in the trenches with people day in and day out, year after year, when working alongside those who were at their most fragile, most vulnerable – who felt raw to the core, and for a whole myriad of reasons and circumstances. It was not uncommon for many of the clients I provided direct service to or made many a referral for, to not only be afflicted with mental health challenges but who were in many instances, challenged by dual-diagnoses. Life can be overwhelming as we are all too familiar with let alone when facing a head-on crisis such as abuse, poverty, joblessness, homelessness, addictions and so forth. Can you imagine being in a full-on crisis while also already being afflicted with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or having clinical depression? Life stressors often times only exacerbates, magnifies and heightens pre-existing anxieties, depressive states, psychosis, and suicidal ideation, particularly if ones most basic of needs are in-flux, scarce, or non-existent. It can very easily and very rapidly become a downward spiralling effect and for obvious reasons. Many people who find themselves in these situations are also further disadvantaged by having a minimal infrastructure of (healthy/un-fractured) familial support.
It is a delicate, layered, and complex situation for even the most seasoned and resourceful of direct service providers who strategically put into place, an immediate and effective plan of care for each individual and unique individual client case therefore one can appreciate how the ‘client’ themselves must be feeling about their own life circumstances, especially when they are the ones directly and profoundly impacted. Mental Health truly affects us all at both the micro and the macro level. It exists within our family’s, our schools, our work environments, our communities – it is both a societal and a global concern, which should elicit compassion, awareness, and education in all of our collective discussions and messaging.
It more than pleases me to turn on the radio in my vehicle and hear advertisements of mental health campaigns and initiatives – to hear brave and courageous individuals using their own empowered voices to discuss their own personal accounts of mental health in 30/60 second airtime segments, and who dispel many of the myths associated with mental health. These brave individuals are here to remind us that mental health also touches lawyers, doctors, accountants, and an additional laundry list of people who are also highly educated, and who hold prestigious positions within society as are some of these people providing their own testimonials, their own intimate stories of the pressures they have felt to hide their mental health challenges and diagnoses, especially because of their high-powered positions and their fear of losing business or trust from clients, colleagues and employers. When one person is brave enough to step into their truth and share that truth with the rest of the world, it creates an open door for others to follow suit and do the same. This is what breaks down the barriers. This is what helps to eradicate shame, stigmitization, fear, isolation, and in many cases, helps to prevent…loss of life by suicide.
Society typically has no problems extending instantaneous compassion and support to those who are differently-abled in the physical sense whether it be as a result of cancer or MS and then knowing how to humanely behave accordingly at the sight of a wheelchair, loss of hair, or a service dog, and yet, even in the instance of a forthcoming brave disclosure of ones invisible ‘disability’ – the one that takes place within ones own mind – somehow this can seemingly get downgraded on the hierarchy of compassion and understanding. This is wrong and is not to be tolerated as acceptable behaviour. Fortunately, as a result of wide media campaigns, high-profile individuals lending their voice to this issue, increased funding and global discussion centred on mental health – we as a people are beginning to catch on to how everyone should be treated equitably with decency, civility, and respect.
Outside of those I have had the honour and the privilege to provide direct service to in my former vocation, this subject always hits home for me personally as I have lost both a first cousin and one of my best friends to suicide. My own mother, now deceased, had once upon a time, disclosed to me that many years prior to her disclosure, had contemplated suicide during one of the darkest periods in her life. She proceeded to tell me that the thought of leaving my brother and I behind, especially under those circumstances then had her contemplating taking all three of our lives, instead. The pills were apparently all lined up on the kitchen counter. As you can see, I am still here and although my Mum no longer is, it was breast cancer she succumbed to in 2014 – not suicide.
I too have experienced many moments of darkness in my life. I wish someone had encouraged me to go to therapy or had taken the initiative to simply take me. I would have loved the opportunity to have had someone to talk to – to have helped me navigate and maneuver my way through it all. Fortunately, I was always an avid reader; always gravitating to the self-help section in the bookstores and immersing myself in the world of personal development, psychology, sociology, spirituality and feminism. It is what I wound up studying at both college and university, and no coincidence that I gravitated to the world of social/human services. It was through the brave voices in memoirs and the refreshing vulnerability of Oprah on her TV show that I realized, I was not alone and not only was I not alone – it was on display for all the world to read and watch and listen to via whatever vehicle and platform available to these bright-lights and warrior-spirits – the message ringing out loud and clear…that there IS power, healing, and strength in speaking ones truth.
I am a staunch advocate both personally and professionally of people asking for help – seeking supports through all means available inclusive of therapy, coaching, mentoring, books, meditation, inspirational videos, crisis hotline numbers – to access and to utilize the plethora of resources available to you in your local communities. I also believe it is our inherent responsibility to step in and step up if we recognize others as being in a state of struggle and hardship. When we are in perceivable crisis or are not operating at our highest vibrational levels, it is immensely difficult to know what to do first or to compute logically or rationally what it means to actually put one foot in front of the other. Never be too busy in your own life to be there for others. There is always a demand for volunteers in every sector of service. There will always be someone in this world who would benefit from your time, compassion, leadership, and positive example of extended kindness. At the very least, let us all refrain from judgement and casting stones. Let us all remain mindful of the fact that one day (again), it may be us in the unforeseen position of requiring others to be gentle and compassionate toward us and even if it is in regards to something that they may not have firsthand insight or experience with.
For those of us who are parents, it is especially crucial that our children witness us taking the lead on inclusivity, and empowering others to empower themselves. We cannot expect from them what we are not dedicated to exercising and putting into action ourselves. If we are not satisfied or proud of our current culture of humanity and we say we want our children to inherit something better – the accountability piece and sense of ownership then falls to each and every one of us. Fierce commitment to being better and doing better for the overall benefit of the collective is an ever day role and responsibility. It is not intended as lip service, a buzz word, a catch phrase or a temporary call to action… it IS a consistently united front, collaborative effort and approach until everyone feels heard, seen, and self-empowered. Something as simple as using ‘Feelings Flash Cards’ with my children to initiate the discussion of feelings, moods, self-awareness, introspection, compassion, and empowerment is something I have implemented from the time they could talk and before they officially entered the school system. We re-visit these flashcards every so often as the feelings, perceptions, insights, and examples tend to change as they enter different phases and ages of cognitive development. By doing something as simple as this together, the bigger message being reinforced, and encouraged is to always dialogue – to outwardly verbalize and work through feelings and concepts, together as opposed to my children internalizing their feelings, and they feeling that this is all on them to navigate and make sense of for themselves. The more expressive, honest, transparent, and communicative people are encouraged to be, the more intrinsically healthy they believe themselves to be with respect to self-esteem, self-worth, self-concept, self-confidence, and individual levels of self-awareness.
The days of passing the buck and thinking it is any one person’s sole responsibility to intervene, and to educate…is over. We are all connected and we are all occupying shared space on this planet therefore it remains everyone’s responsibility to be a contributor. We are stronger and healthier as a people when we come together for ourselves and one another and lock forces. I want this for you and your children as much as I want this for myself and my children. The choice is always ours to make. The future is always ours to improve upon and that starts today…that begins now! We know all too well what the problems are. I pledge to consistently do my part to be part of the solution, to be a unifier, to freely and willingly offer up my tools and resources wherever and whenever needed. Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and consistently offer to do the same? Want to join forces and do it together? For anyone who is gracious enough to have taken the time to read this blog, please know I forever wish you my very best for you in your journey. Please also know, you are not alone. If you are someone who is reading this who knows they are struggling, please reach out for support and assistance – please do not shoulder your hardships in isolation or in silence. YOU MATTER!
Uplifting you to fear less and to live more!
Love and Gratitude ~ Lisa
Originally published at livingfearlesslywithlisa.com