QOTW – Do you really want to help?

Times are weird, no lie. The pandemic of the past year seemed to flip so many things upside down in unexpected and unusual ways. Things done in the dark were exposed and the stage was set on so many levels for the questioning of customs and habits which had become norms (warts and all).

The past year has been a season of great reflection for me, as I explored why I speak, behave or react to different situations and most importantly how to do better. I’ve realised that we (also talking to myself) generally act or speak because of conscious and unconscious conditioning, be it societal, religious, cultural or from unhealed trauma. Conditioning is dangerous when critical thinking and operating from a place of genuine believe and faith in a higher power are not applied to sanity check on how sound the foundation of that conditioning is. In layman’s terms, if the foundation and basis of the conditioning is not on strong morals, it is is highly likely to leave you empty, lacking and acting in ways that don’t best serve you and others around you.

My season of reflection has also led me to increasing my advocacy on issues I’m passionate about, especially in the fight against the unspoken pandemic of abuse. So the above quote is part of my advocacy. The black community sadly is particularly very bad at this. We tend to give little or no consideration to emotional health, and therefore relegate it to the back as the very poor cousin of physical health. With the increased exposure and spotlight on issues like domestic and sexual abuse, ongoing impact of Covid-19 and lockdown on so many different facets of our day to day existence, racism, cyber bullying, and the negative aspects of social media it is becoming clearer that a person’s mental and emotional health is just as important and therefore shouldn’t be taken for granted or minimised.

So, I have a small ask. If you really want to help someone who’s struggling to overcome some form of mental trauma, DO:

  • Be a listening ear and hear them out if you can;
  • Encourage them to seek out professional help, practitioners, counsellors and/or coaches;
  • Empathise and realise everyone deals with ish differently (even if you have the superpowers to just brush things off, this is not about you)

DON’T get irritated, be short with them, or say any of the following or similar phrases to them:

  • “Oh just snap out of it, get over it”;
  • “Surely it wasn’t that bad, why are you making such a big deal about it?”;
  • “You’re not the first person to go through X, and you won’t be the last”;
  • “You have not prayed or fasted enough”;
  • “Just put your big girl pants on. You are stronger than this” (said without acknowledging the person’s hurt, confusion or distress)

We are conditioned to suggest a quick fix because we ourselves are uncomfortable with pain and sensitive subjects so are keen to brush it off as quickly as possible so we can return to “safe ground”. Unfortunately this putting a plaster on a bullet wound approach just covers up the wound and prolongs the healing time or worse yet causes the wound to become more infected. Therapy or prescribed medication to help better manage anxiety disorders are not just for white people, is not a sign of weakness and is nothing to be ashamed about. A lot of people are struggling unnecessarily and putting a brave, “I’m fine” face on, whilst secretly dying inside, not helped by words like the above. This is both sad and preventable as they could receive professional or the right kind of help. Anxiety, depression, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), suicide or people dying of unknown illnesses brought on by prolonged trauma and emotional abuse not addressed are real issues, not “someone swore for you or your ancestors” or black magic.

Please let’s check ourselves the next time we’re trying to be helpful, and not further compound the issues.

What other phrase(s) have you heard or maybe used yourself which in hindsight wasn’t really helpful at all?

Mental health statistics – MHFA England

BAME and mental health

Get help from a mental health charity – NHS

Covid’s mental health toll