It is almost the end of the day here in Aotearoa New Zealand. A decade ago, I wouldn’t have given a day highlighting mental health a second thought. I was one of those persons who spent the first four decades of his life without any significant mental health concerns. Sure, I felt a bit anxious on that sixth cup of coffee and sure I had dealt with bullies in primary school, but that was it. I didn’t realise how easy I had it. I also didn’t have much empathy or compassion for the suffering of others.
Ten years ago, my world collapsed. I experienced PTSD as my marriage ended. In the depths of despair, I decided to become a counsellor to help others.
Mental Health Day is now front and centre in my thoughts. I can imagine the suffering of others, because I have felt it myself. I have also counselled others in person and from a distance. The burdens others carry can be unimaginable and when we try to understand, we tend to pull back in fear. One of the first things I learned as a counsellor was not to be a problem-solver. People in distress get more than enough of those interactions. Sure, help, but don’t feel a need to fill every second with speaking and don’t tell them “all you need to do is . . . ” That rubbish is generally unwelcome.
How can you help? Learn about mental health issues. Volunteer to just be with those suffering. Do things to make their struggles a bit easier – be it offering them a cuppa, listening without advising, making a meal, bringing their wash from the clothesline. There are so many ways to help others in need.
If we are lucky enough not to be struggling ourselves right now, we certainly will, given enough life. Help someone up, asking nothing in return. When you someday get the same, you will savour it that much more.
For those struggling – you are not alone.