“We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place at some point in the past; it is also the footprint that this experience left on the mind, brain and body. This imprint has constant consequences on how the human body manages to survive in the present. Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way the mind and brain manage perceptions. It changes not only the way we think and what we think, but also our ability to think ”. – from “The body keeps the score”, by Bessel van der Kolk
For the most part (although we still have a lot to improve), as a society we have learned to behave around people with disabilities and people affected by disease.
If we meet someone in a wheelchair, we don’t ask them to follow us up a ladder. If we know that an employee has heart disease, we are not asking him or her to do intense work. We do not degrade a person with diabetes to test blood glucose levels in the middle of the day.
For all these people, we probably know their status. We can see the wheelchair. Most likely, the person with heart disease or diabetes will tell us how their lives changed and what they can and cannot do.
We wish none of those people could be strengthened, just pray for their illnesses, stop making us fall with their condition.
This is not the case for people with mental health issues.
Mental health (from anxiety to depression, anger, and fear, to more complex behavior problems or hallucinations) can come in the same way as any illness or disorder.
We could be born with it, with conditions such as bipolar disorder related to hereditary problems, such as heart conditions or high blood pressure.
We could get it from our environment, with a lot of research linking certain pollutants, such as lead with behavioral problems, in the same way that a lot of research relates other pollutants to cancer.
We could do it ourselves, like people who continue to sign up for these multimillion-dollar NFL contracts despite the documented risk of behavior-altering brain trauma, just as some people continue to make bad eating decisions despite the well-documented risk of diabetes or heart problems.
Or it could happen to us. Just as a car accident can take away our ability to walk, accidental brain injuries can change our behavior. And more and more research groups are showing emotional trauma: rape, physical abuse, verbal abuse, loss, pain, constant stress or sadness from childhood, the presence of a tragedy, a war, they are really physically rebuilding our brains to make new ones work. ways, affecting the form of adrenaline, blood and other chemicals responsible for the fight or flight responses run through our body.
In short, some emotional trauma, if left untreated, can take away our ability to walk, just like that car accident.
However, as a society, despite the progress made in recent years, we still treat mental health differently than physical health.
And that, I think, is because we haven’t talked about it enough yet.
We talk about blows, so many of us know how to look at fallen faces. But we’re not talking about suicide, so we don’t know how to look at the clues that might indicate that someone we love is in trouble.
We talk about heart attacks, so many of us know how to watch for the presence of pain in our left arms. But let’s not talk about depression, so many of us don’t know how to ask for help when we suddenly stop loving the things we once loved.
We talk about heart disease, so many of our restaurants highlight heart-healthy options on their menus. But let’s not talk about chronic anxiety, so few of our employers tolerate an employee who calls sick without smells.
Because we don’t talk openly about mental health in the same way we talk about physical health, and in fact we often look down on those who suffer, considering them weak so as not to recover, we stigmatize the disease to the point that we suffer from illness. Mental sufferers often feel uncomfortable sharing their pain, even with a professional.
A co-worker with heart disease tells us what he can’t do, but a co-worker with depression will hide it, keep going, make things worse.
We have made progress, but we need to keep talking.
We have to get it right.
Only then will we be able to understand and support our loved ones.
Only in this way could those who have the power to change policies or invest resources to make things better.
Justin A. Hinkley can be contacted at 989-354-3112 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.
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