Mental Health Awareness: A Message to the Politically-Minded

The more we learn about racism, colo­ni­al­ism and pover­ty, the more we are prone to see the world in a neg­at­ive light. The more we search, the big­ger the web of oppres­sion. But whil­st it’s of great import­ance that we have a bet­ter under­stand­ing of real­ity, we must be con­tinu­ally aware of how this inform­a­tion is affect­ing us.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the harsh facts and for­get about our own men­tal health. If we are very polit­ic­ally involved, we may com­pletely neg­ate our own desires in favour of a dream of world peace. We might align ourselves to the polit­ic­al struggle so much that we can­not see ourselves as indi­vidu­als. In this way, the world’s issues can become intric­ately attached to our own. And since these prob­lems only seem to increase, so too may ours.

As a res­ult, anxi­ety, depres­sion and oth­er men­tal health issues can start to eat away at us without us real­ising. One may think, ‘but it’s my oblig­a­tion to take part in polit­ic­al dia­logue, to read about the atro­cit­ies and to protest’. This may be true, but we don’t have to become unhappy people in the pro­cess.

There has been a recent rise in dis­cus­sions about both social prob­lems and men­tal health. This is an import­ant step in the right dir­ec­tion. This is because under all the polit­ic­al terms, we can often lose sight of the fact that we are dis­cuss­ing the health and well­being of human beings. At root, this is the main issue. From pover­ty and eco­nom­ic dis­par­it­ies to racism and sex­ism, it is all about the con­sequen­tial effects on people’s health, bod­ies and minds. There­fore, if the over­all aim is to cre­ate bet­ter well­being, we should always remem­ber to apply the mes­sage to ourselves.

As we nav­ig­ate around such sens­it­ive and com­plic­ated top­ics, we must be con­tinu­ally aware that we are psy­cho­lo­gic­al beings. We are not tools for the revolu­tion­ary struggle, but human beings who take on the feel­ings of oth­ers. And although it’s easi­er said than done, it’s import­ant that we mon­it­or what we are inter­n­al­ising. There are situ­ations when it’s neces­sary to turn away and come back to the sub­ject another time. To come back to it when we are bet­ter able to pro­cess the inform­a­tion.

Allow me to give an example. At the start of my five month trip in Jamaica, I would spend my days read­ing about Jamaic­an his­tory. At first it intrigued me. I was fas­cin­ated by the resi­li­ence of my ancest­ors and how they had cre­ated their own hybrid cul­ture. But as I delved fur­ther into the sub­ject, I real­ised many harsh truths about the his­tory. Jamaica sud­denly seemed less beau­ti­ful. As the days went by I would start to see the linger­ing traces of slavery every­where I turned.

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It twis­ted me up. It was one thing to read about slavery and colo­ni­al­ism from the com­fort of a lib­rary in Bri­tain. It was another thing to lift my head up from the books and see slavery’s effects around me. It became dif­fi­cult to stop my neg­at­ive thoughts. I con­tinu­ally con­nec­ted the his­tor­ic­al dots, unable to con­ceive of a pos­it­ive inter­pret­a­tion of the facts. At some point I real­ised that for the sake of my well­being, I would have to stop this kind of ana­lys­is. I decided I would take up the study again at another point in time.

For any­one who has ever had anxi­ety, they will know the feel­ing of grasp­ing for pos­it­iv­ity whil­st look­ing through a neg­at­ive lens. Through this lens, his­tory seems only to be about greed and selfish­ness. The bad things come in very tan­gible terms like ‘exploit­a­tion’ and ‘enchained’ but the good things seem hard to con­ceive. The weight of it presses down on the mind. What I didn’t real­ise in the moment was that my anxi­ety was being triggered. As my anxi­ety got worse, the worse the his­tory appeared.

The best way to treat anxi­ety is to remind one­self that everything will be alright. It is to take one’s mind off the things that are mak­ing one anxious. The art of being mind­ful is to be aware of how cer­tain thoughts are affect­ing our feel­ings. If a neg­at­ive thought arises, it’s import­ant to simply brush it away and make a con­scious effort to think about some­thing else.

If we have anxi­ety we should leave what is mak­ing us unhappy and apply our minds to the things that make us smile. If we are cre­at­ive, we can find com­fort in artist­ic expres­sion. But it doesn’t have to be that com­plic­ated. It can be as sim­ple as call­ing a friend who makes us laugh or watch­ing a tele­vi­sion show that we enjoy. It’s import­ant to become groun­ded in what is in front of us and real­ise the imme­di­ate com­forts. The trick in over­com­ing anxi­ety is under­stand­ing that we are in con­trol of ours thoughts. It is not the oth­er way around.

Healthy men­tal habits are not about neg­lect­ing the issues. They about refresh­ing the brain. We can bet­ter tackle the hurdles when we are of clear mind. There is no race to under­stand­ing his­tory and polit­ics. We need to allow ourselves room to take it all in. Besides, the most import­ant jour­ney is that of self-under­stand­ing. Some­times it’s ok to say ‘I’ve done enough’.

We are all tak­ing a noble step by even con­tem­plat­ing the philo­soph­ic­al and polit­ic­al issues. There­fore it’s import­ant that we con­grat­u­late and treat ourselves for tak­ing this leap into the unknown. It is a dif­fi­cult road but we can take con­sol­a­tion in the fact that we are put­ting in the effort to broaden our under­stand­ing. Many people would rather take an easi­er option. The least we can ask for is our own per­son­al hap­pi­ness.

Now it could be argued that the pro­cess I have just explained is a priv­ileged lux­ury. Many people in the world are going through trau­mat­ic exper­i­ences that they are unable to turn away from. This is true. But we will be of more help to a pos­it­ive cause if we are in the right state of mind. Men­tal health prob­lems will only stand in the way.

It must also be remembered that my solu­tion is what works for me. There are a range of dif­fer­ent treat­ments for oth­er men­tal health issues. The import­ant thing is to be open to talk about them and to seek help when needed. We don’t need to feel like the world is on our shoulders. There is beau­ty in front of us but its appear­ance just depends on our per­spect­ive.

 

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Nicholas Milverton
A writer with an interest in Philo­sophy, Soci­ology, Anthro­po­logy and all things intro­spect­ive. Someone who is equally at home in under­ground house raves as he is in café’s. He is con­tinu­ally ques­tion­ing the sys­tem and his own lines of reas­on­ing. There­fore, he is always rein­vent­ing him­self.

About Nicholas Milverton

Nicholas Milverton
A writer with an interest in Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology and all things introspective. Someone who is equally at home in underground house raves as he is in cafe's. He is continually questioning the system and his own lines of reasoning. Therefore, he is always reinventing himself.