A More Supportive Approach to Mental Health
As someone who has been through the system as a client, researcher, and provider, I can clearly see the traditional ways of dealing with mental health are wrong.
We all love our kids and want what is best for them! I know that people who work in the mental health industry, for the most part, do so because they want to "help" others because they care deeply, but "helping" means reaching down to pull someone up because you don't think they can do it themselves. "Supporting" someone means understanding where they are at, and saying "I've got your back, while you climb out, if and when you are ready". This is a HUGE difference!
Last night I was honored to watch the movie Angst, which was brought to our town by Fitness for Mental Health (who graciously provide free access to exercise programs for those in need), as a way to raise awareness about what it is like to have Anxiety, the types of diagnoses, and the latest research on the treatments and coping mechanisms for anxiety.
Angst - documentary on youth anxiety
Although I absolutely honour the youth that spoke up about how they feel, and the people who made the movie, much like the youths and makers of Race to Nowhere, and I know the therapists hearts are in the right place, they are missing a critical piece to the puzzle.
Let's go back. Before the movie, they had an amazing speaker from Jack.org who showed us how it is NOT mental illness, its mental health, and we all have mental health, and we can all slide up and down this continuum of mental health from healthy to stressed to struggle to crisis.
I 100% agree and have experienced all aspects of this continuum. I had severe anxiety, panic attacks, physical and emotional/mental components of social anxiety, major depression and more, some that took me completely out of the game and required medication!
But, the piece they are missing, that is critical and that turns their attempts to "help" someone into actually invalidating the clients/youths experience is when they move to "here are the methods to cope, so you can keep doing what you feel uncomfortable doing, or lets do exposure therapy to extinguish how you feel".
This is wrong on so many levels! #1 you need to validate how someone feels, you need to be able to see WHY they feel that way, and say "that is normal for you, and this is how you cope with it". Anxiety and all emotions are NORMAL, you do not need to make it clinical. Someone feels anxiety because something is NOT right for them, because they have a fear (as was stated in this movie) that they need to address, with LOVE, not FORCE.
I know the practitioners hearts are in the right place, but the method is wrong. They are not leveraging ancient wisdom, like Human Design and Soul Contract, which will clearly show you WHY the person has the fear or anxiety and what to do about it. Once you normalize their experience, I repeat, their experience is NORMAL, for THEM, we are all unique, then you can move forward to supporting them on how to cope. Just because most people are not afraid to speak in public (well, actually, many are, but that is beside the point), forcing someone who is terrified, without normalizing, is terrible. Likewise, forcing someone to sit in a class that doesn't feel right to them, is also terrible.
We need to use how we feel as a guide for where we are at, where we need to go, and what our gifts are.
Here are some examples:
In Human Design, someone with an "open solar plex" feels other people's positive and negative emotions 10 times what they feel them. This can make it very hard for them to face others as they fear their reaction. They also feel all the anxiety in the room, which can be terribly uncomfortable. If you do not acknowledge this for someone, they feel like something is wrong with them. When in fact, this is a gift, they can read people, they can direct people to be aware of how another feels, but they MUST protect themselves, they must take breaks to be alone, other people's emotions can be terribly painful, and it is their right to take a break. Imagine feeling someone's anger, disappointment, even excitement 10-fold, not fun. So exposure therapy for this, is cruel. See this article for a brief overview of the emotional system in Human Design: What is going on with my/their emotions?
In Soul Contract, someone with a 5 was probably killed in a past life for speaking their truth, they are here again to be an innovator, they are very intuitive and very sensitive, sometimes these kids could have autistic traits because it is so hard for them to be here. These are cutting edge people who need to be allowed to arrange their environment so that they feel comfortable. How on earth are they supposed to share their intuition and gifts with us, if we keep forcing them into situations they feel they can not handle? You are going to make these kids even sicker and even less able to cope. If exposure therapy works on these kids its because you have managed to override and shut down their sensitivity, which means you killed a part of them, their gift. And, even though it is done with love, this is incredibly insensitive.
In Soul Contract, someone with a 7 is terrified there is something wrong with them. Yes, they do need to learn that there is nothing wrong with any part of themselves, by taking a chance to show the part of themselves that they fear is awful, and seeing they are loved anyways. But you absolutely can NOT force someone to do this. They have to be ready, they have to feel safe, they have to gauge the environment as safe. This society is truly terrible at forcing children and people to do what does not feel right to them, and do you know what this leads to? Children being sexually abused! I don't mean to sugar coat it, and I don't think I am. But look at the Girl Guides who came out with the campaign "don't make your child hug", its the same. Don't force someone to share or to be in an environment that doesn't feel safe!
These are just a few examples, there are plenty more. This is where I feel current traditional therapy and parenting has really fallen in the ranks. WE ARE NOT ALL THE SAME! You must leverage ancient wisdom (like Human Design and Soul Contract) to see that! And when you do, then you can come at everything with love and acceptance and support.
Please stop forcing children to do things they are not comfortable with. You are breeding further illness!
I know your heart is in the right place, you want your child or client to be like everyone else, to have all the opportunities you see another child may have, probably because on a deep level, you want this for yourself. But, who your child or client is, and who each of us are is WAY more amazing than average.
Every single sensitivity is a gift. Someone who can feel deeply can also facilitate someone to heal deeply, they can also write a killer business proposal because they can feel the recipients concerns as they write and adjust accordingly. These are your master communicators, and guides, should they choose to do that. Or they may isolate themselves completely, so that they are not distracted by the vast illness out in the world, so they can just work on their craft and spread truth.
If you want to learn more, please get in touch.
I know we all mean well, and come from love. But the current methods are so unconscious and damaging, that I wanted to speak out and say, they must stop.
You must stop forcing children. You must see who they really are, accept them, tell them its ok, love them in that way, without having to change them. And then you will see, they will change themselves, when they are ready.
There is nothing like validation to make someone feel strong in themselves, strong enough to face their own fears!
And THIS is the difference. If someone says "I have X fear, I know it is normal for me, but I want to work on being able to overcome it" THEN you can support them to do that. But while they are still trembling and saying "I think something is wrong with me" and you say "force yourself" this is where the deep dis-service is done. Does this make sense?
Trust me, I have been through the system, I have felt it personally, I conducted mental health research for almost 10 years, I worked on a mental health and suicide prevention crisis line, I am CBT trained, and I know what it takes to accept and heal mental health issues, and its not labeling and force, its acceptance and love.
I am not saying "don't reach out for help when you are struggling". I am saying "reach out for someone who can make you feel more normal for your experience, as opposed to someone who is going to label you as ill".
You are not ill, your experience is normal, for you, always. And if the practitioner you are seeing can not see that, they can not support you to accept yourself, and that is all we are really here to do.
Love and Blessings,
MSc Psychology, Stress & Health
Unconditional Love ~ Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash
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