What does Mental Health look like?
Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well, work well, and contribute to their community. In an uncomplicated way, mental illness is a general term for a group of illnesses that may impact a person’s thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and behaviours. Mental health issues and illnesses can affect working and personal relationships. Counselling, medication, or both can help you treat mental illness.
In New Zealand, about forty-seven percent of Kiwis experience mental distresses or illnesses and for the Rainbow communities the numbers are even worse. Over fifty percent of people in the Rainbow communities, i.e., fifty-seven percent of the Rainbow people experience mental issues. Add in the disadvantaged communities like the Māori and Pacifica communities as well as the Disabled communities and the statistics grow even worse. Saying this, I feel the need to share this to help raise awareness of the problems we face today.
On 03/08/2023, a brother in my direct community decided that life was not worth living and ended his life. A young female-to-male transgender person who just wanted to be free and to be accepted. How many others are there living on the edge with the same thoughts? If you want to convince me that is selfish of them or attention seeking, then you need to go look in the mirror. Just ask yourself, what did I do today? What did I do or say to brighten up someone else’s day or what might I have said, or didn’t that just destroyed their sense of want? They say the tongue is the sharpest object you can get. How true is that statement?
I can lay claims to these comments because you know what? I was one of those who are “selfish or seeking attention” people. Through divine intervention, I was moved away from that edge. No, I was not selfish and no, I was not seeking attention. I live alone and I was seconds from becoming a statistic. They would have maybe only found my body weeks later because you know why? Being isolated and being pushed away from those who you care about and love the most, not finding employment or promotions, not having any more friends, and I became lonely and secluded. Each day of my life became more miserable. My so-called “friends” who were buddies until they could not benefit from our friendships anymore were gone because of my changes. I could no longer repair their cars and I could no longer provide a warrant of fitness help or inspections. So, maybe I became obsolete to their requirement for friendship, but who knows? Then I experienced the distancing from my family. My four children and my sisters; all but one living back in South Africa with one living in Australia now.
Besides my oldest daughter Tania, who tries her best to keep regular contact with me, none of the other three ever make an effort or even try to call me. My own sisters will only talk if I contact them otherwise, I will never hear from them. They say they have accepted me as who I am but, did they or are they just saying that to soothe my mind (or theirs)? You know what? I don’t care anymore. These are the issues we face every day of our lives. The struggle to survive is real. We get attacked from all sides, not only by those who don’t understand, but from those who preach with a bible under their arm but avoid living up to those same requirements within themselves. This is not about those people or what their prerogatives are in life, either. This is about mental well-being and a sense of belonging, a desire to live a life free from influential and perceived obligations as to who we are in modern societies. As I have described some reasons mental health or wellbeing becomes an issue, I’d like to note a few signs that indicate a mental unwellness around us.
When you see your friend or family member start changing known life habits or if they become emotionally distracted or distanced. They may start to fade away and become secluded and distanced from what they used to do and be. They may become engaged in living a life of low self-esteem; less self-care tendencies with a no-care attitude towards personal hygiene. They walk around all day feeling like there’s no hope for them or they feel overwhelmed by everything we take for granted.
These are danger signs we need to recognize; something is seriously wrong, and we need to notice any signs that suggest a shift towards suicidal thoughts or talks. Mental health and well-being should be part of our everyday life and in every situation we find ourselves in. How we see, feel, and think while dealing with life’s ups and downs is a major factor in whether we experience positive or negative mental well-being for ourselves. It also helps us to recognize the same in some people we see every day. It’s up to us to see and recognize the signs that are deteriorating our society, especially if we live in rural areas where support may be a phone call away, but in reality, could take hours for physical help and/or support. Some because of distances as well as the shortcomings in our own Mental Health System.
I do not have to go far when I say, we have a very poor mental health system here in our own country, Aotearoa-New Zealand. I’m not going to enter the political circus arena and debate who and why our mental health is in such a poor situation. My opinion is it doesn’t look good, and some drastic changes need to happen in order to alleviate the situation.
How can we make a difference and help to improve our mental health and that of those who struggle? We can start by learning to recognize what’s happening around us and see the signs of deterioration in those who we know and also in our society. The people we know and how they changed over time are good indicators of their mental well-being. If we recognize the signs, we can certainly try to improve the well-being of those near us and those who are part of our daily life.
Become more involved and connect with those who we see have changed. Prioritise making face-to-face connections if you can, but even a simple phone call or text is a start for someone who is alone and lonely. Reach out if you struggle, you just may find the connection to what your needs are. Adopt some healthy sleeping and eating habits that will help support a strong mental well-being. Start a relaxing hobby and create a relaxing environment around yourself. There are many more “tips” to follow, but resorting to the basics is a big start towards healthy living and generating a well-balanced lifestyle that can only improve your mental well-being. If you are struggling, please reach out to someone who cares and if you see someone who struggles, reach out to them, and show you care. The bottom line of all this is that no matter who you are or what situation you find yourself in, reach out! I dedicate this article to that person who not only had no support in place, but a person who is no more, just because they wanted to be free to be happy.
May you rest in peace!