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Compassion and Mental Health

 

May has been Mental Health Awareness Month.  I am sure you have seen the posts on Social Media, seen the MEMES addressing how important our Mental Health is and how we all need to be greater advocates. 

 

We don’t have to be Lady Gaga or Michael Phelps to understand the adverse impact of poor mental health and to speak up against a stigma that is very much alive.

 

Mental Health, and seeing it through a compassionate light is not only my profession, but I believe one of my universal assignments.  

 

I have struggled with anxiety throughout most of my life.

 

Anxiety has played a significant role in not only how I see the world, but how I sometimes feel the world sees me.  It has times been debilitating, painful, and scary. On the flip side, my anxiety has also provided me with some of my greatest lessons, and a deeper level to be empathetic.  

 

The work I do to manage good Mental Health takes daily practice; however, it is this WORK that makes everything else in my life work.

 

My unique understanding as both a patient and a clinician have compelled me to continue to help others see Mental Health for what it is, an essential aspect of our health that requires constant care and compassion.

 

Compassion from ourselves first and foremost, is of the utmost importance.  If we can offer compassion to others who we know are struggling; then we are doing the right thing!  In approaching them with love and compassion, we are helping model kindness.

 

When someone has poor Mental Health, and lives with it without treatment, or support it is not only painful for them but also to the ones who love them.   Sometimes their sickness can become ours and makes it even harder to understand and tolerate. This is yet another reason why compassion benefits us ALL!

 

As a society, it is safe to say we have so many wrong conceptions about Mental Health, and what it means to struggle with the array of Mental Health disorders, which are becoming more commonplace.  

 

From addiction issues to personality disorders, there is such a lack of understanding about most Mental Health Disorders and how people are living with Mental Illness.

 

As a psychotherapist, I am committed to helping people manage the hard work needed to live a life where they feel as if they are in the driver's seat as it regards how they are emotionally feeling and functioning.  Again it can seem like hard work for anyone confronting these issues, but it is the WORK needed to combat and manage our emotional struggles.

 

Planting compassion into the moments of our lives and others who are suffering needs to become our new "Reaction" to how we approach Mental Health.   

 

Often it is our ignorance, intolerance, or apathy that is getting in the way of helping ourselves understand how Mental Health works.  We live in a society that values our Physical Health more than our Emotional Health.

 

It was only around the time after World War II, that Cancer was recognized in our society in a real way and seen as a disease.  People back then were even scared to name or speak out loud the word: CANCER.

 

It has only been in the last fifty plus years, where the dialogue about beating Cancer, prevention, and education has surfaced.  We have all gained tremendously from this shift in our cultural understanding of what Cancer is. The acceptance we shifted in regards to Cancer, has led to greater advancements, education and humanity.

 

I hope that we continue to make space for ourselves and others to understand Mental Illness and to make the same positive shift we made at decriminalizing Cancer.  People who are living with Mental Illness are undervalued enough, and it is time for a NEW APPROACH!

 

A different approach that incorporates compassion, acceptance and less punitive ways of labeling people who have Mental Illness is what I hope and dream for.

 

Do not underestimate an act of kindness towards someone who might be struggling.   A moment of kindness directed at someone in need is a beautiful thing to do, and something we all would want from others if we were on the other side.

 

Additionally, when we act on this kindness, we are helping shift the collective lack of tolerance in regards to Mental Health.  We all want Mental Illness education to become more accessible and understood. Deciding to add kindness and compassion to Mental Health continues to be work for us ALL, and I know we are capable!

 

I want to end this BLOG in recognizing the progress we have made as a country in how we see Mental Health, which we know does not discriminate.  I am not sure when Mental Health has received as much attention as it has the past few years. The resources and communities which are here to support us in understanding Mental Health inspire me.  (It also makes my work easier and more validating)

 

PLEASE let us be HELPFUL to the ones we love, and not HINDER on their emotional challenges. We have to change how we treat others suffering from Mental Illness.  The stakes are too high, and the more we can shine a light on these issues, we will all heal in genuine and lasting way.

 

I hope May has treated you well, and let us continue to be crusaders for #MentalHealthAwareness every day!

 

Always my best,

Hillary

 

 

 

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© 2018 Hillary Schoninger LCSW. All Rights Reserved.

1 E Superior Suite #506, Chicago, IL 60611