Changing Perspectives on Mental Health: Moving from Awareness to Acceptance | News, Sports, Jobs
As we enter new seasons, we have opportunities for new perspectives. Changing our perspectives can sometimes be a challenge. Changing gears requires conscious work; you change your perspective by thinking or doing something differently to change yourself, your situation, or others. To create a strong and resilient community, we must work together to change our perspectives to be inclusive and tolerant. If we reflect on the past ten years, it’s safe to say that mental health awareness has grown through social media engagement, sharing our authentic experiences, and normalizing that looking for help is brave. But, awareness is easy; we may be aware of many beliefs, behaviors and concepts even if we disagree. We are aware of mental health messages when we browse media platforms and we are aware when we gather with our friends and family. But do we accept the nuances related to mental health and well-being?
First, we recognize that awareness is simply realizing that someone has a challenge; we are aware of the different types of challenges and experiences that people have. Acceptance tells them they are not alone, motivates them to receive help and/or to work with them. Acceptance comes from a place of understanding and action. We are moving from being knowledgeable about mental health to now being part of the acceptance movement. The change of perspective allows you to step out of your usual point of view to discover new ways of thinking and understanding in order to make our community safer and healthier for those who encounter difficulties.
Vincent Ryan, in their article “Why is acceptance important for our mental health? » speaks beautifully about acceptance by saying;
“One of the reasons acceptance can be so important is that it’s very hard to do anything constructive about something when we don’t accept it. A degree of acceptance can be an important requirement for real commitment and for change to occur. A second reason why acceptance is the necessary change is that individuals begin to come to terms with something that has happened that is painful and hard to bear, something that is a real loss to us. Life is full of losses, big and small. Another reason acceptance is important to the mental health movement is that it can be a gateway to compassion for self and others. This can often be very important in healing and moving on. As human beings, we inevitably face all kinds of painful emotions as part of life, as part of our human endowment. And sometimes we inherit beliefs that we shouldn’t have some of those emotions – that it’s not safe or it’s shameful or that we’re somehow weak or bad or unlovable.
When we accept that ourselves, children, neighbors, co-workers, friends and family may have these emotions, challenges and experiences, we set the stage for positive healing and acceptance that this is normal and expected. . Often we hear people respond to the challenges of the human experience with toxic positivity; you know, the over-generalization of happy statements. Well, as humans, we experience a range of emotions throughout a single day. When someone downplays their emotions, we begin to feel that they are invalidated. Responses and stigma that deny feelings can negatively influence help-seeking behaviors.
Mental health problems can arise at any time in life. As the pandemic has increased the challenges for many of us, the mental well-being of young people within our community and across the world has been greatly impacted. These challenges existed long before the pandemic, but now more than ever, we need to accept what young people are feeling and validate that these difficult emotions are normal. We can no longer idealize the “pick up by your bootstraps” mentality; the attitude that we must accept responsibility for everything that happens to us. The effects of the pandemic prove that, through no fault of ours, our lives can change drastically and abruptly. As a community, we must ensure that every child has access to high quality, affordable and culturally appropriate mental health care. We need to support child and youth mental health in educational, community and child care settings. We must address the economic and social barriers that contribute to poor mental health among young people, families and caregivers. More than ever, we need to reduce the stigma associated with youth mental health and be a bridge to provide youth with the resources they deserve.
The mental health program provided by the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene recognizes that stigma, outdated mindsets, and toxic positivity are real concerns when we open up conversations about mental health and seeking help. We mitigate toxic positivity and emphasize acceptance by validating the challenges and emotions faced by members of our community, we express genuine empathy, we share our lived experiences and we provide practical resources related to the professional help and personal care.
Thinking about our own perspectives and recognizing that acceptance takes work, I challenge you to think about mental health and how you perceive it. I challenge you to be a bridge to help in someone’s life.
Christina Breen works as a Social-Emotional Learning and Training Specialist with the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene and the Chautauqua Tapestry Resilience Initiative, in conjunction with the Alliance for Chautauqua County Suicide Prevention. For more information on programming and trainings, email [email protected] or visit preventsuicidechq.com.