I find it very difficult to write and post about this today. Despite my desire to ignore it all, while focusing on my little world and my safe bubble, I just feel like I have an obligation to say something. Perhaps someone will hear. Perhaps it will help one person…..even that is worth it.
Last night, after particularly long working day, I was hit with accumulated daily news headlines from the day. Because I get international news and read large variety of sources, my “catching up on the news” ranged from: a middle school shooting at Robb Middle School in Texas where 21 people were killed, 19 children and 2 teachers, the Depp vs. Heard trial, Palestinian/Israeli conflict, Ukraine/Russia conflict, a fatal shooting in Manhattan subway found to be done by a 25 year old male, a follow up investigation on shooting in Buffalo, New York, where a man walked into a grocery store then killed 10 people while injuring 3, a Baptist church “mishandling" of sexual abuse and allegations of assaults, and remembrance images of 71 children killed in the Bosnian genocide on May 25th, to name a few.
Just reading these headlines, in the still of the night, was chilling. Normally I like my tragic news in doses — through out the day — but yesterday I was just unable to “connect” with the world. Reading these news pieces left me stunned at each incident, yet compiled together like that made me see the bigger picture of what is happening here.
There is ONE thing that ALL of these incidents and news headlines have in common, and they all point to one very specific issue — mental health.
Regardless if you are an aggressor or a victim, or as the Depp vs. Heard trial demonstrates, we may have the propensity for both both — it is clear that everyone is struggling with some form of a mental health issue.
We have focused our energies on healthful eating, staying fit, making sure we get regular doctor visits to ensure our cholesterol is in the proper range, we get screened for sugar levels and cancer — but what about the cancer of the mind? What about the slow creeping of mental health issues that seem to go unnoticed until there is a tragedy, or a news headline?
No child was born saying or wishing they would turn into a murderer. No child daydreams of being a sexual predator. No child ever said: "I really hope when I grow up I create senseless war that will leave millions dead." No child ever said: “I hope to kill as many people as I can in my middle school. Oh and my grandmother too.”
These things happen gradually and over time. They start when we are young, like a child that overeats sugar - no they don’t have diabetes now, but it’s likely by the time they hit their 30’s or 40’s it will be an issue. Same with mental health concerns….they often happen gradually, without notice or a big splash….little by little. But sadly, unlike the way we take care of our physical health, we often don’t assess our mental health the way we go to a doctor for a routine check up and blood work. Unlike the way we limit sugar, use diet and exercise to maintain the health levels, we often don’t think to unburden the pain and anguish, the hurt and sadness. So we carry it all….we carry it all until, we begin to develop a callus. We numb out. We numb out to protect ourselves from the pain. To shield ourselves from the world. And the more we disconnect from the world, the more we disconnect from ourselves. As we shut down to ourselves and the world around us, we lessen the empathy we have for ourselves and others, and slowly we enter the grey are when we are capable of doing anything. The area where we can justify any action. Because, despite our desire to ignore this pain, hurt, shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, depression, to pretend it isn’t there — the mind doesn’t care — the mind remembers, the body remembers, and this constant pile up eventually leads to an unimaginable action.
Mental health is NOT a bad word. Just like sugar and fat aren’t bad words. It is only when sugar and fat are consumed over the years constantly without reprieve do they actually become an issue. The same is the case for untreated mental health that becomes a problem. Just like you shouldn’t be ashamed of going to see a doctor to check your cholesterol and sugar levels, don’t be afraid to check in on your mental health. Let’s make it normal. Let’s make it normal to talk about everything. Let’s make it normal to create a safe space for our kids to unburden. Parents stay open. Listen to your children. Don’t judge them. And for god’s sake, remember, that no matter what the question is — love is always the answer. Get comfortable to talk about uncomfortable subject and topics. Get comfortable to talk about hurtful issues. Get comfortable with being wrong. Learn about generational trauma. Learn about your blind spots and the issues you carry and project onto to your children. It is not our children that are born bad — it is us. We have created these pressure cooker environments where children are no longer children. Where being perfect is standard. Where difference is bad and we have to take sides.
But it’s not only children. It’s us too. We carry generational trauma from our parents and environment that we have to unburden. You want to help your child have great mental health, to be the most well adjusted version of themselves? The best thing you can do is take care of your own mental health - create those changes inside of you. Besides providing an excellent example, and being super role model, you will heal things within yourself that will stop the cycle and shield your child from your past ghosts.
Please note that taking care of your or your child’s mental health doesn’t mean you have a mental health issue. Quite the opposite. It just means that you won’t have any, or that you’ll learn to manage any that arise, and the stressors in life, the ups and downs, more healthfully. Kind of like how watching your sugar intake means you’re less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and will help you manage symptoms if they do arise. Taking care of mental health means your life will be healthier, happier and much more enjoyable — and so will your kids’.
And while there are a lot of mental health issues to unpack with each of these headlines, one thing that I feel is imperative to point out here is our lack of empathy. It seems that we have been developing into a divided and polarized society. Us vs. them. If you aren’t with me, you are my enemy. My way is the right way. When the reality is that we are all wrong and we are all right. We seem to judge immediately, take sides, and then vehemently fight to prove our side — all while news is being custom fed to us to cater to OUR beliefs and fuel even more division. People, please hear me, we don’t live in the black and white. We live in the grey. We can’t just judge people — in fact research says that we judge people in areas where we feel insecure and vulnerable — for example, if I am confident as a parent I am not going to judge other parents. If I am confident about my body I won’t judge others about their body.
And just like we can’t stop all sugar intake in one day, we can’t heal all of our mental health trauma in one day either. So today, start small. Start with one important thing that may change your life — stop judging and try to be more empathetic and understanding of others. See and feel things from their point of view - realize that regardless if you are a mother from Uvalde, Buffalo, Ukraine, Russia, Israel or Palestine who lost her child, you are in the same pain. The same grief. Try to understand people as individuals. Connect on personal levels. Hear someone. Create a safe space for them so they don’t feel judged. So they don’t feel shame. And with that you will start healing, yourself, them, and the world.
Here’s a video of that contradicts all the news headlines. A positive something. A proof that as children we are all loving. No words need to be shared — there is only language of emotion and energy. Language that connects us beyond the words and headlines. The language of love.