In a 7th grade classroom in New York, a 12-year-old Jamaican girl is bullied incessantly by her classmates because she’s black. In Australia, an 18-year-old high school student receives a threatening text as she’s walking home from school that tells her she’ll die the next day. In Japan, a 13-year-old girl who tries to be part of a social group is sent a series of hateful emails. Many young women (and men) can’t bear the pain of harassment and take their own lives.
Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death amongst 15 – 19-year-olds, and more than 700,000 people of all ages die by suicide each year, according to the World Health Organization.
These devastating stories and statistics should serve as a wake-up call for all of us, about the necessity of caring for others, and our mental health.
The Truth About Trauma
Though suicide is at the forefront of many discussions on mental health, it’s not the only not the only topic that needs to be addressed.
Across the globe, nearly everyone endured the pain of the pandemic and all that came with it, whether it be due to lockdowns, job losses, financial hardships or in the worst cases, the deaths of friends and family members. Many also still face lingering health issues, due to Long COVID. The grief over these life events cannot be understated, and will take time to heal and process…
Couple that with the unjust wars happening around the world, plus the ongoing climate crisis, violent crimes, and social injustice, and we face another pandemic on our hands: The Pandemic of Collective Trauma.
The weight of these traumas can manifest in anxiety, depression, panic attacks, sleep disorders and other physiological ways that can result in physical illness as well. People who live in a traumatised state of dysregulation, may turn to coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol, that will worsen both their mental and physical health.
Once a term typically associated with soldiers returning from war, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) now affects a significant amount of the general world population.
The key to working through these traumas is to identify their cause and then seek help to overcome any adverse effects that are resulting from them.
It's Not Your Fault
Many people are born with mental illnesses that are genetic. Some learn to navigate the issues these illnesses cause, while others may not be properly diagnosed or treated in the way that would best serve them. Alternately, some may develop mental health issues due to a life event and not realise they need help.
Whatever the reason for the ailment, guilt and shame should never be emotions associated with mental health. It’s important not to perpetuate unhealthy stigmas associated with these issues.
Self-Care for the Spirit and Sensitivity for Others
Taking time out to breathe is essential in today’s world. Studies show that shorter work weeks, where a work-life balance is enforced, results in better mental health for employees (and ultimately a better work performance for companies and organisations).
Self-care activities like walks in nature, spa treatments or recreational activities that relax the soul, should no longer be seen as a luxury, but rather an essential component of our mental health routine.
The importance of ‘checking in’ on our friends and family is also crucial, as many who struggle with the pain of mental health issues are “high functioning” and may not always exhibit signs of distress. Try to approach anyone you know who may be in pain with sensitivity for what they’re going through.
Help and Healing
If you or someone you love needs assistance with their mental health, checkpoint.org has a wealth of global resources available, along with the World Health Organization.
In this month, as we promote Mental Health Awareness, it’s never been more important to recognize the fragility of our own well-being, and work toward creating a more compassionate society …
We must not look away …
Photo credit: © Julian Lennon, 2021. To view more of Julian’s photography, follow @julespicturepalace on Instagram.
Source for examples of teen harassment in our intro: Cyberbullying.org.