Mental health campaigns should be two-way
This pandemic has seen the creation of many initiatives on mental health awareness. It is undeniably convincing that a lot of us struggle with our mental health and sanity. I wrote two months ago about the implications of some posts we see online regarding breaking the stigma and educating people. However, we need to have a deeper look at these posts.
Talk about understanding our friends who help us.
There is a thin line between mental illnesses and casual occurrence of feelings of depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional struggles we associate with mental illnesses. However, in our campaigns, we unpreventably cater to these two groups of people as they somehow relate to the message. Here, the danger comes in.
People who undergo therapy sessions are taught to work on their thought patterns. But in our online campaigns, we are indirectly teaching people to be more critical in every “insensitive” word (ie think positive, kaya mo iyan, this too shall pass) they receive from their helping friends. This leads to building more negative thought patterns. Rather than validating the impression that these words are inherently inappropriate and insensitive, let us start teaching people to be more understanding to their friends who help them.
How should we cater to our struggling friends in our campaigns? Teach them about coping skills and among them is recognizing and understanding that our friends are not our on-call therapists. This is more productive as it also helps us deal with our harmful thoughts about the intentions of our friends. Our friends are humans too, they fail, and they are also a work in progress.
But how about those people (such as the boomers) who do not know how to reach out sensitively?
Talk about listening and cultivating empathy.
Of course, through our campaigns, we educate people who are not familiar with the reality of mental illnesses. Present facts about mental health, teach people to be more intentional in helping their friends, but the focus of our message should be about listening and empathy. Empathy goes beyond the superficial, and cultivating it should be the chief end of every awareness campaign.
Being empathic may also come in the form of persevering in encouraging our friends to seek professional help. It is still more prudent to lead them to the proper and professional help they deserve.
For our campaigns to be more successful and productive, they should help us deal with our thought patterns, instead of dwelling too much in validating our negative emotions.
(Read more about being hopeful in times of depression: Better days ahead)