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Same stress, different response

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I have learned the reason people respond differently to any situation. “Psychologists will categorise our range of reactions, including emotions, by several theories,” says Psychology Today.

These theories suggest that human responses are governed by emotions which can cloud our logic, stimulus, learning, upbringing and the environment, and much more.

All of these impact my response, but accepting who I am has caused me to carve a different response to matters that previously got the wrong rise out of me. That learning of the past 20 years about mental ill health and the fact that it should not be regarded with the suspicions and spiteful responses, which the world chooses, have changed everything I have ever learned.

As I appreciate me, especially my shortcomings, the grace and compassion I need, the understanding I covet from others, and the unending “blighs” I require because I constantly make mistakes, my response keeps changing. My thinking has taken greater shape in the more recent years, chalked up to maturity and to empathy.

I remember the days when my first response was to blame the police and call them names—I still do from time to time from pure force of habit. Now, the other part of me desires better for those who give themselves in service. I’m not speaking of the rotting ones we always see in the news feeds, but those whose accepted nobility of the profession is masked by the blurring of the lines by some.

I am not unaware of the misgivings of our society in the judgment of whether the police can police. I have little confidence for example that they would ever discover which of my relatives/neighbours in my community broke into my home.

Would they ever find my water pump? Can they return my new expensive circular saw?

My all-time favourite interaction with the police was when my nine-year-old cousin allegedly stole an important item from me and the police asked me, “Did you see her steal it?” To which I responded, “No officer, but she has stolen from my bathroom and living room before and she was the only one in my home for the past three days.”

Then, “What kind of question is that? If I saw her I would take it from her. I won’t be here. And officer, you really think that people steal while the owners are looking? But I am hoping you can police the situation and speak sense into her giving it back to me.” After which the officer never looked at me again for the next 20 minute duration of the “conversation.”

All of my reservations though, are much like that of the populace, based on the annual statistics of major crimes that remain unsolved.

Still, what I have learned is that the job police do—whether we think they do it bad or good—is a stressful one. I have also learned that not much is on offer, as should be, to treat with the continuous “policing” of the mental well-being of officers. Yet, somehow, we expect there would be a better response to any crime or policing here.

The global research statistic for people reporting to work ill is approximately 18 per cent. This means that one-sixth or more of the police workforce is bringing us suboptimal output.

In my volunteer work this week, I asked a group of about 100 fourth-formers , “Who in this room has mental health?” and, way below my expectation, there was a showing of two hands and one tentative finger.

This is a usual circumstance.

Everywhere I go teaching, training, mentoring, or talking, I always ask this question because I genuinely want to know what people know about mental health. Often, people respond to what I am not asking, which is, “Who has mental ill health?”

I used the time to explain that everyone has mental health suggesting that if mental health is the health of the mind and each of us has a mind then we each have mental health. Some people may have good mental health and enjoy good well-being. Others may have mental health issues, conditions, disorders or illnesses and are therefore at times, not enjoying good well-being.

Still, there are those who have no diagnosable illnesses and suffer poor well-being; and finally those who have mental ill health and experience good wellbeing.

We embrace the issues and challenges of physical health visiting the doctor, taking our medication or following all the instructions for our physical well-being. The same should apply to our mental health and well-being. But unfortunately we are trying to erase centuries of prejudice, stigma and bigotry that make the entire subject taboo.

Got a brain? Then you got mental health! Deal with mental health as if your brain matters.

Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications and media professional and a public health practitioner.

She holds an MA with Merit in Mass Communications (University of Leicester) and is a Master of Public Health With Distinction (UWI). Write to: [email protected]


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