It’s only fitting that individuals born between 1925 to 1945 are known as the ‘Silent Generation”, notorious for soldiering on and navigating through adversity without much complaint. From the Great Depression, WWII, and an Apartheid regime, to name a few, this generation has endured hardships in all forms, recently the addition of the global pandemic. As an age group facing the most risk during this health crisis, they continue to practice silent resilience.
In no way does their silence serve as an indication of their ability to cope but rather attests to an ingrained resistance to seeking mental support. Reared on the belief that being strong and showing emotional restraint was a means of survival, anything less, was a sign of weakness. This indoctrinated perception is a direct consequence of a society that marginalized and discriminated against mental illness.
Lunatic. Mad. Crazy.
Popular labels used to carelessly describe patients who experienced mental illness and poor mental health. Loosely used terms that hold power to perpetuate stigma and socially isolate. Society defined mentally ill patients as outsiders and rejected them from their narrow-minded idea of what they considered normal. With the same energy used to make quick judgments, ignorant solutions formed. “Get over it.” “Snap out of it.” Simple right?
The ripple effects made patients either less inclined to explore treatment options or prolonged treatment due to self-doubt.
This stigma dispersed through all levels. Institutional, social, and consequently a self-stigma deeply rooted in internalized shame.
The generation of silent sufferers have contributed to a vicious cycle that produced a history of rising stigma, which meant mental health was never a topic of discussion. Mental health back then was approached with a ‘brush it under the carpet’ notion as knowledge and understanding of mental illness was limited.
In the environment I grew up in, psychological health was a hushed subject. Emotions that were considered ‘negative, or ‘weak’ were soon suppressed and swiftly dismissed. My community shared the consensus that in the face of adversity you should thug it out. The common expectation was that if you fall, you dust it off and keep going. This belief was a blanket solution for every situation, be it trivial or significant. From a young age, I had an urge to understand my home dynamics and this shielded generational approach, which posed a never-ending question that clung to my childhood. Why? These three letters piqued my interest and had me fall in love.
My childhood proved to be a bittersweet experience as it sparked a curiosity in me that opened the door to psychology. It was love at first sight.
I embarked on a journey filled with deep admiration and respect for the human science that studies the mind and behaviour. I immersed myself in a field that has since become a life compass. Psychology represents and defines a central part of who I am today. But like most first loves the euphoria became clouded by reality.
As you may know, to become a practicing professional, you need your master’s degree paired with a full-year internship before registering for the HPCSA. As a young graduate in 2017 who still intends on achieving the above milestones, the inherent stubborn and impatient nature of a Taurus prompted my desire to do it all now. With my undergraduate degree at 20, there was a sense of naivety brewing behind my dream of being fully qualified at 24, something I needed to rethink.
How could a 24-year-old counsel a 45-year-old patient?
A question posed to me as I keenly spoke to my professor about my intentions. He advised me that I needed life experience that would afford me a deeper understanding of people. A combination of maturity and worldliness. Being goal-orientated, an individual driven by their avid need to journal each plan it was to my surprise that this advice caused some items on my list to enter a state of pending. I evaluated this change of course and decided that I would venture out and open myself to new experiences outside the walls that brought me both knowledge and comfort.
Switch up the narrative.
On my journey of self-discovery, I began brainstorming ways to align my passion with action to create more awareness and reach a community that could equally educate and introduce me to several opposing perspectives. Hence the birth of my blog Mind Over Matter: Psych Talks.
With a technology-driven world and society consumed by outside appearances and material gain, there still seems to be neglect for mental health amongst Gen Z and Millenials. Gen Z is currently the most depressed generation riddled with anxiety and stress. Unfortunately, we live in a world where ‘internal wounds of the mind’ are ignored, yet visible exterior wounds are offered sympathy and support.
It’s about time we break the cycle.
It dawned on me amid Covid-19 that I wanted to curate an online platform that aids in reshaping the mold by sharing knowledge through open, honest discourse. A safe space that welcomes diversity and does not shy away from controversial topics and uncomfortable conversations like the generations before us.
Timing is everything. I am eternally grateful to be a product of the generational mindset towards mental health that led me to find my vocation at a young age and catapulted me into finding my voice today.
Welcome to my blog. Thank you.