As it is World Mental Health Day today i wanted to write a quick piece about how i believe we are not paying enough attention to listening… It is amazing that mental health is finally beginning to be spoke about properly, but my concern is that within that we are missing the real power, and i believe that power comes in listening. Maybe we should not be focusing so much on people talking about their mental health, maybe the real focus should be on listening and in that way the talking will just naturally follow. Try listening to someone, really listening, and you will realise that they do not need much pushing to talk…..
The real power is not in the talking, the true power is in the listening.
There is belief that one can not understand someone’s mental health issues without having been there themselves, is this really the case or is it that we live in a society that is finding it increasingly difficult to listen? When I look back over the moments that really changed me they came not when I spoke, but when I felt heard. Listening is not always about finding a solution, or trying to fix, or even just waiting for someone to shut up so you can talk, no, real and true listening is about making someone feel heard. Perhaps the best way to help people to talk would be help them realise an environment exists where they might feel heard?
This is all of ours problems.
Mental health issues seem to be on the rise, and we, as a society, have to take responsibility for this, whether we have suffered from this ourselves or not. I often hear quotes like ‘only you can make the change’ or ‘no one can change you but yourself’ and I understand the point behind them but are they fully true?? What about connection, and bonds that can be built, relationships and friendships? They often weren’t enough to pull me out of the darkness, but was that really what I wanted? Loneliness kept me in the darkness for such a long time. What about, rather than trying to get people to drag themselves out of the darkness, we took some of our own light into their darkness for a while. What if we went into that darkness, didn’t try to drag them out, didn’t try to push them out, but just shared our light. Moments like there are where hope can be born. It doesn’t have to be about saving these people, but perhaps making their struggles more manageable.
Spotting cries for help.
People usually associate cries for help with suicide but I had many cries for help long before i seriously considered taking my own life. These came in many forms, especially as a child, but were often just seen as just naughty because they were harder to spot. The more we listen, the more chance we have as a society of spotting these cries for help before they reach the more terrifying stage. A cry for help is often not easy to spot, and if someone is acting out, there is often a reason for this. Can we listen more and perhaps hear some of the more subtle signs that people say in their everyday conversations?
This is something i don’t think we look at enough. We are starting to look more and more at ways of helping people who are really suffering with mental health problems, but are we doing enough for prevention? For me, I can begin to understand and see the routes I took towards reaching some of the dark places I did, and if we did more to try to listen to people in general, we may have more of a chance of spotting people that are falling into mental health problems.
Learn more about our own mental well-being.
One of the greatest joys I have discovered in truly listening is just how much I can learn about myself. In listening more intently to your struggles, I make more sense of my own struggles. Listening to others is one of the greatest remedies for my own mental health. Truly listening to others can rid us of our own loneliness and, at the same time, can shed light on our own struggles and insecurities.
We can’t always fix the people we want to.
We want answers, its natural, we want to solve the ones we love’s problems. Its in our nature. But its not always possible to do that completely. It is the same with physical health. If someone is in hospital with a physical illness, trying to get better and there is nothing we can do, what do we do? We visit, we sit for a while, we bring flowers, but most importantly, we be there. We sit for a while. We listen about the pain. We don’t tell them hoe they should get well, we just be. It is the same with mental health. Next time someone is struggling, don’t try to solve them, or fix them, just visit, just be, and just listen about the pain, because with mental health sometimes a true desire to understand…. is to understand.