3 strategies to normalize and promote mental health within any community
Growing up, my generation never heard anything related with emotions. My teachers and family created a constrained productivity bubble where happiness was the only possible show. No wonder why as adults, millennials seem to be drowning in stress, anxiety and silent depression.
Fortunately, things might have a different outcome for the new generation. With the recent pandemic; fear, loneliness and frustration became part of our everyday vocabulary. This is no small accomplishment: Learning to enunciate and share the way we feel is the first step towards improving our mental health.
Take notice on how we are not addressing the popular “self care” term here. Doing yoga, eating your veggies, having time off, all these are actually basic health needs. This is not a hobby. It’s the basic maintenance needed to function as healthy people. And yes, mental health is just another dimension of our overall health. So talking about it shouldn’t be reserved for crisis periods. It’s an everyday aspect of ourselves.
So, what does mental health means? According to Dr. Clelia García; clinic director at Terapify, mental health refers to the complex phenomenon of personal well-being; emotional, economic and social independence which generates an adequate level of competence, intergenerational dependence and acceptance of growth capacity with a good level of emotional and intellectual achievement.
It is so much more than just “feeling well” or “having a breakdown”. Even more, as stated by Dr. García mental health is an important factor in our ability to achieve intelectual goals and be competent.
This should be more than enough incentive to find opportunities to address the topic with your students and colleagues. Remember: Enunciating and sharing is the first step.
So let’s go through a 3 steps strategy to open the mental health conversation at your educational environment:
1. Build trust within your group
We’re inviting others to be vulnerable with us. No one is going to open up unless she or he can recognize it is a safe space to do so. An effective tactic is to create a game around this interaction.
We are wired to understand games as a space apart from our everyday reality. Where there are rules and rewards but anything will reflect outside of the game. You don’t even have to be yourself while playing. Creating some distance between yourself and the avatar allows you to express or associate yourself with concepts you’re not entirely comfortable.
2. Demystify mental health and psychologists
Next up, we have some preconceptions to break. How can we change the general perception of the group around this topic? Please, avoid a unilateral conductive approach. Your presentation on the importance of mental health and the role of psychologist will be, at its best, ignored.
To debunk these misconceptions, it’s better to encourage debate among students. Assign stances and let them confront in an open forum. Hearing each other perspective without the pressure of sharing their personal beliefs will set a common ground for everyone within the group.
3. Design a support system
Every personal crisis is the result of a flawed social system.
Read that again. Every personal crisis is the result of a flawed social system.No one suddenly goes through an anxiety or depression period. This also means you will not be able to support every student that opens up to you seeking for support. That’s why your educational environment must have a clearly defined support system for everyone within the community. Do you have academic counselors, mentors or academy psychologist as part of your teammates? It’s time to stand up and address the importance of this roles with your manager.
Remember that in order to offer your effective support to others the first step is to take care of yourself. This 3 steps strategy can be implemented within any community. Find your safe space, build trust, openly debunk those mental health myths and create a support system with your loved ones. Dare to be vulnerable.