Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
The last few days I have been deep in thought thinking about how mental illness is still seen as taboo throughout the black community in particular. I see the space for so much work to be done in the area and I feel the need to do something to create a shift. Although small, I decided to participate in the “Free Listening Day” project on April 17th 2017. Reason being, I feel we all want to not just be heard but for someone to actually listen to what we have to say. I wanted to offer myself to anyone who simply needed to unload and feel ok about it. I Made a “Free Listening” sign board and headed out in the streets to offer my ear for anyone who wanted or needed an ear. It was challenging for me to do first of all because I have been stuck in my comfort zone lately and have not been very social. I asked a friend to join me for support and I am proud that I went through with it.
“Listening is an active process by which we make sense of, assess, and respond to what we hear.”
It felt awkward at first but then I realize that the people passing watching me may be feeling awkward as well. Most people passed and smiled at me, others were curious to know what I was about, one guy asked me to take my pic, while others seemed embarrass to make eye contact. This project brought awareness of how closed in we are even though we are apart of a universe that is focused on keeping us all connected. We connect virtually but its seemingly hard for us to connect face to face. I believe that the advancements in technology creates more loneliness through it’s connections. That, in my opinion can lead to an increase in mental illnesses such as depression.
Suicide is the leading cause of death in the US. In Grenada there are two cases of suicide for 2017 which saddens me. It saddens me because we don’t LISTEN anymore. We are selfishly caught up in our own lives that we don’t have time to give of ourselves to others. It saddens me because I feel like there are not enough information, support groups, helpful resources or trustworthy people available. I can understand in this era how scary it would seem to tell someone your business, hoping it would stay with them. People are so quick to do the public and online shaming thing, throwing your business back in your face when the relationship falls apart. This is reason enough for anyone to keep their troubles to themselves. Not being able to talk about issues that may be affecting you, not feeling like you can relate your problems to someone can be the starting point of a mental breakdown or depression for anyone going through the motion.
“Mental illness cannot be stigmatized and characterize in one “crazy” bracket. It goes so much deeper than that.”- Laureen
I am sure we all can protest to having days where our mental state was simply thrown off balance, our thoughts unhealthy, and our emotions awry. Some of us are probably thankful every day that our will is stronger than hopelessness. That we are able to see further down the road and able to hold on to saving grace. According to the local Grenadian saying “we back broad” and so we carry the load. Not everyone though is fit to make it far with their load. Some people’s back breaks under the load and because of these stigmas and taboos they shamefully keep their pain to themselves. Internalizing these life issues creates more conflict within. The ones who tries to express it may be met with ignorance, dismissal or the norm of taking it to the lord in prayer. I believe in God but I don’t believe that Prayer is ENOUGH to change situations; ACTION is needed, SUPPORT is needed, COMMUNICATION is needed, EDUCATION is needed, and most importantly LISTENING is needed.
“Faith Without Works Is Dead”- James 2:14-26
We were all blessed with voices and even if some people are not able to be vocal I am thankful that there are other means of communication. Communication is vital, we need to start talking and most importantly LISTENING. Listening without judgment, listening to serve rather than condemn, listening to process and give feedback. There are too many people functionally walking around feeling hopeless, depressed, angry, grieving etc and there are not enough resources to turn to. Not enough open hearts to render a hug or help. The truth of the matter is any day can be the day that the straw can break the camel back. Any day can present a situation so tough that even a good swimmer like YOU can drown.
Think about it, our purpose on this earth is not a selfish one. Though each of our purposes may carry different words of explanation it all boils down to one thing, SERVING EACH OTHER. Loving your neighbor as you love yourself. The next time someone comes to you with a problem, you notice a friend becoming silent and recluse, or you see someone acting out in a way that makes you uncomfortable etc please be mindful and thoughtful. Please be available instead of trying to evade the person. BE accountable to your brother or sister during their down period. Stop with the empty phrases of “pray about it” or “get over it” but instead, give your time, prayer with them if that is all you can do but most importantly don’t just leave them to be, LISTEN. It may be the one thing that can change a whole story. Time is more valuable than money. Everything is not just easy for everyone to simply get over. This is not a perfect world and we are all imperfect human beings needing support and love from each other.
“Love is the ultimate action. Love is the one thing we all have in common because we were created in it to be it. We are love!
P.S. If you want to be apart of the free listening movement head on over to Urban Confessional.
*Know of any resources or support groups in your area? Please share it in the comments below. You never know who might be looking.
*Help bring some light to this issue and hopefully be able to help someone, help someone by sharing this post. Thanks 🙂
Live, Laugh, Love