IT BEGINS AT SCHOOL

IT BEGINS AT SCHOOL


Like most foundation skills we learn at school, reading and writing stay with us for life. It is at these early stages where most basic learning takes place. Yet, the introduction of mental health topics is something we seem to stumble on as young adults.
Yes, teachers play a crucial role in promoting student mental health. However, it is the school’s responsibility to pave the way and establish values that prioritize the wellbeing of the whole student. The school’s philosophy sets the tone for the environment it creates. Pressure cannot be placed solely on teachers to provide a positive atmosphere when the top (system) fails to lead by example. Schools must readjust their vision, mission, and goal to cater to a safe, mental health-friendly environment. The words must become a reality. Instead of a slogan/motto to slap on the monthly newsletter or a catchphrase to lure prospective students. Schools should lead and guide teachers/staff to form a united front that advocates the importance of mental wellbeing by introducing the right resources for students.

Where did we go wrong?

The majority of schools adopt a militant approach to education. A system that focuses on discipline and producing results. The belief is that achievement and success is the single objective. The cornerstone of our capitalist society. A culture that breeds students with a clouded tunnel-vision perspective on success and what matters in life.
A robotic culture, stuck in mundane outdated curriculums that attempt to produce a standard of unilateral thinking. A fixation on accumulating facts and building a reservoir of knowledge that often serves no use. Remember, knowledge without application has no purpose. The obsession with numbers, quantity over quality, begins here.
It is one of our first experiences of an institution with an unquenchable thirst for results. A measurement of how much we retain rather than how much we will use. A uniformity that is not only introduced by the need to look the same but by the naive expectation that students think the same.
The problem is that schools foster a narrow view of success through academics or sports. Children reared on the idea that happiness can be achieved, through results that bring success. Success in the form of tangible objects and possessions. Consumerism in a capitalist economy at its finest. A step-by-step guide. One is only satisfied once they have secured a house, a car, (inserts any luxury) etc. A game that requires each level to be unlocked, revealing new attainment of success. We are to blame for reducing self-worth down to societal standards. Value, reduced to the number of things you obtain. This moment is where we fail our youth and indoctrinate a falsehood of needing to live a life driven by wealth, power, and fame. We got kids believing that there is one path to take. No pressure. The naivety and ignorance behind telling our youth you are unique and different but, “here’s one door”- our job is to push you through.

Schools often promote academic competence without the
development of emotional/ social skills. Producing kids with an aggressive pursuit of ambition and very little understanding of mental health. So what can we do to shift our notion/ focus to developing healthy minds? Minds that are not dependent on academics or sport to produce a meaningful life. But ultimately an environment where student differences are accepted and celebrated. A new focus on happy, healthy children rather than successful children. Schools carry precious cargo through their halls and corridors each day. The duty to shape young minds. A task that big requires change and an understanding that human beings are multidimensional. All factors must be nurtured and cultivated
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So we understand the problem, how do we implement solutions? Like I mentioned earlier, we have to start with adjusting our objectives. Once we make a clear goal to adhere to, then we can meet those words with actions. Schools can start by investing in mental health training for teachers. Educate teachers on general mental health problems and the know-how for early intervention. Support teachers with the knowledge to assist students with mental health challenges by identifying and responding. Train teachers and staff to promote behavioral development. Learn the necessary ways that will limit feelings of hopelessness and sadness that roam through classes.
Implement mental health workshops where students can engage in relevant topics and understand themselves. Build self-awareness and introspection so that students can identify their emotions by linking their ‘known’ feelings to appropriate actions.

Aim higher.

Schools can reach out to the education department and relevant boards to assess curriculum changes. They must be held accountable for pushing material that has no meaning or value. We must move towards content with life lessons and key takeaways. The kind of material that will promote relevant skills for the outside world. These changes can merge into a required subject. A subject dedicated to open discourse among students on the harsh realities and the nature of the world we live in. A step up from L.O. Lessons that equip students with the necessary tools to navigate through the ups and downs of life.
For schools to fully hold a positive space for learners, there must be room for a diversity of talents. Clubs and extracurriculars equally invested in specific niches to cultivate young artists, creatives, or innovators.
Schools should have a qualified school counselor on the premise to assist students in an emergency and general student checkups. Group sessions and individual consultations where students can speak their minds. A health professional that can bridge an understanding between the expectations of parents, school and the needs of the student. Someone who is an ear and voice for each child.
Schools must fully immerse themselves in creating a wellness ambiance by following a mental health calendar. Acknowledge and honor days that are important in educating mental illness.
The school can also make an effort to host mental health organizations or professionals for seminars. Lectures and masterclasses that create awareness while teaching students the key to mental wellbeing.

There are many ways schools can implement changes and teach the importance of intangibles. Moving away from the system we have all been accustomed to, to one we are deserving of. But change requires leaving familiarity behind and welcoming improvement. The education system has to understand its inner purpose and use it to mold a better future. Education with meaning.
Schools should feel fulfilled by their contribution of sending out well-developed students groomed holistically. Thinkers of the future, who don’t only hold certificates with A’s but a mind strong enough to cope through adversity.

What kind of humans do you want to walk out of your institution?

STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH

STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH

The Teacher’s Role in Student Mental Health.

Hopefully, we’ve all had teachers in our lives that made a mark. A positive mark. The kind of teachers that stepped beyond academics and paid attention to our mental well-being too. The type of teachers who refused to view us as a number of the system and took the time to learn about who we are.
Now I know we live in a numerical world, where our scores and marks determine how we are ‘seen’ and what we will be.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in testing well for one’s personal goals. But more so, I advocate the importance of rearing good, kind, healthy human beings. A success that isn’t measured by your ability to memorize and repeat.

I am lucky to have crossed paths with one of the special-kind and unfortunate to have experienced many who were straight-up textbook teachers. One’s who regurgitated knowledge in pursuit of our retention.

But let’s shine the spotlight our those gems that deserve recognition.
So I’ll take you back to 2006. The year I met a teacher who had a lifelong influence and shaped me into the person I am today. I’ll spare you the details. But for a 9-year-old, I went through two significant changes in under a year. I had recently experienced the loss of my father and shortly after moved from South Africa, my home, to the UK. I know what you’re thinking, how bad could it be? And yes, it ended up being a magical adventure. But as a youngin, I was leaving all I had known behind. Soldiering on~ these changes had directly impacted my well-being but, still, we move. There were more factors at play though the gist was that things were rough.

The English school year begins in September, so I started school in the middle of year 5 (Grade 5). Hands down my worst academic year. I know it’s primary school but as a kid who valued scholarly achievements, it was dismal. I couldn’t keep up with the workload and the pressure I felt of being a new immigrant, fighting off old stereotypes. The school didn’t ease that transition. I felt the weight of having to start all over again, making friends, learning an advanced curriculum, and proving myself. I guess the latter was self-inflicted, I burdened myself with the feeling of needing to prove I deserved to be there. There I was trying to catch up while my teacher failed to recognize anything beyond my substandard marks. She chose to ignore the reflection or deeper meaning behind those numerical values. Zero guidance, zero understanding. She gave me ‘just another dumb foreigner’ vibes. Class dismissed.

For many kids, including me going to school brings comfort, structure, and safety. But this particular year, I dreaded every day. With low self-esteem and no classroom support, I felt useless. Feeling overwhelmed and constantly overlooked, I struggled in silence and counted my days.

Until year six arrived and changed the game. In some way, I had to experience the bad before appreciating the good. This year I was blessed with a teacher who saw something in me. He saw my potential and took the time to cultivate an environment where I could unlock it. Mr. Squillario not only noticed my academic potential but my sporting talents too. It was at a PE class where we played cricket that my boost of confidence grew. Mr. Squillario instantly observed my capabilities, I finally felt accepted among my peers. In South Africa, sport was and is an integral part of the schooling system. My talents arose from countless memories of playing cricket with my older brother and Gran. One PE class had taken me back to a moment of pure bliss. I felt like a kid again. Turn’s out, Mr. Squillario saw something shift in me too. The next day he handed me a letter for country cricket trials. He told me to hand it over to my parents and that he believed I had a good chance.

At the time, I was in my head, thinking this was something way out of my league. I was just a little Durban girl, ‘what business did I have in an English county team.’ I pushed that letter to the bottom of my bag, but he was resilient. Each day he would ask me, “Did your parents sign it yet?” with a nervous mumble, I would reply with an excuse. All while knowing the letter sat pressed between todays’ lunch and tomorrow’s homework. But he pushed. After school, he followed briskly behind and spoke to my mother. Unimpressed and caught off guard, my mother assured him she would take a look at it. I, of course, was reprimanded for withholding information and the embarrassment that ensued. I guess a part of me was struggling with self-doubt and the idea of incurring additional expenses/pressures on the fam. But whatever he said made her sign that form. With a bottle of water and my talent, I showed up at trials. I immediately became intimidated by girls with name-branded gear and already formed cliques. Over the trial period, it stirred a hunger in me. I was losing too much that I needed to win. I wanted this opportunity, knowing I had someone who believed I was worthy of it. I had never felt a sense of belonging like I did when holding a cricket ball. When that letter arrived to congratulate me on making the Middlesex County U11 Cricket team, I owed that success to Mr. Squillario.

Moral of the story Mr. Squillario saw me. He gave me a shot that no one else could or was willing to. He unlocked a beast mode in me that left all inadequate, insecure feelings behind. He opened up a door of possibilities and believed that I could achieve anything. I excelled in my schoolwork again and made the squad each year after that. I played club, academy, and county-level cricket for eight years, winning Jack Petchey awards and competing in the London Youth Games. I had arrived. I went from playing with my family in the flats to training at Lords Cricket Ground, because of the impact a teacher had made. The achievements, though rewarding, didn’t match what he shifted internally in me. My mindset, my emotional and social well-being had changed for the better.

He gave me a start in life, a chance at my new life in the UK. He believed in fostering a supportive atmosphere, a classroom that developed our emotional, social and academic competence. He focused on the whole student and appreciated each individual. It is that type of teacher who acknowledges their role is more than the formal description. He took the initiative to facilitate a mental health, friendly environment. He made us feel like we could talk about our emotions and helped us regulate them. Despite the school’s lack of support, he went against the norm and became a mentor, counselor, and educator all in one.

Teachers play a crucial role in their student’s mental health often becoming the only role models outside of a child’s home. They spend countless hours with children and watch them develop, putting them in a prime position of often detecting mental health problems that interfere with day-to-day functioning. Though diagnosis cannot be made on their part, observations can assist with early intervention.
The classroom can be a space for emotional expression, in some cases something that isn’t an option at home. Teachers form an example of healthy, appropriate adult behavior which children will internalize and model. They shape our mindsets. In essence, a classroom is a powerful place and with the right teacher, it can change you for life
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CAUSES OF MENTAL ILLNESS

CAUSES OF MENTAL ILLNESS

When we speak of causes of mental illnesses, we often find there is no single cause but rather a combination. We tend to categorize these causes into three main groups biological, psychological, and environmental. Under each group lies possible risk factors that can contribute to the onset of mental illness. The more risk factors you encounter, the more likely your chances of enduring a mental illness may be. Matters of the brain are complicated, as causes depend on the individual and the type of disorder. Mental illness could remain dormant or ‘activate’ depending on one’s unique experience with exposed risk factors. The move from ‘dormant’ to ‘active’ is the direct consequence of what we call triggers. Triggers are different for each person. What may set off one might not spark the other.

Biological causes:
So we often hear people debate whether “it’s a chemical imbalance.” To give this phrase meaning, we refer to the increase or reduced number of neurotransmitters that affect the overall functioning of the neural network.
Neurotransmitters are responsible for communicating signals between nerve cells. The abnormal functioning of these nerve pathways, which connect to distinct parts of the brain, may result in mental disorders.

Speaking of functionality and brain regions, the occurrence of a brain injury may bring about mental disorders. As we know, our brains are central to the functioning of our bodies. When a part of it takes a hit, it could alter our moods, the way we think and act.
The type of disorder is dependent on the impact, the region affected, and the severity of the injury.

Then comes genetics. Similarly, you may get your green eyes from Mom and your freckles from Dad in the form of genes. There is reason to believe that susceptibility to mental illness is no different. The gist of genetics and mental illness is that some disorders may run in families. A hypothesis that suggests if a direct family member has a mental illness, one may be more likely to develop it themselves. It is the susceptibility that passes down in families. The abnormalities in a family member’s gene pool do not warrant an onset of a mental illness but present a risk factor. There are variables to consider, like your environment and how you choose to respond to it. Exposure to abuse/ traumatic events could activate a mental illness that is underlying due to genes.
The phenomenon of triggers.

Infections and diseases play a role in contributing to the evolution of a mental illness. In a comparable way that disease/ infection causes your physical health to decline, your mental health suffers too. Generally, the assumption is that one who is experiencing a disease/ infection has poor health overall. Following, the belief that their habits are unhealthy; poor diet, substance use, and exercise levels. The added impact of medications and poor lifestyle choices due to disease/infection can contribute to the progression of a mental illness.

While focusing on the biological causes in one’s postnatal lifespan, we must consider the conditions of an individual’s prenatal experience. The fetus’s exposure and the environment before birth coincide with its growth. Any disruption or impairment that affects the unborn child’s brain development is known as prenatal damage. Sadly, this damage can cause adverse effects on one’s mental health before their life outside of the womb begins.
Determinants of a mental illness include a mother using drugs or alcohol during her pregnancy and her exposure to infections/illness. Mother’s in traumatic environments; exposed to violence, abuse, and high levels of stress increase the likelihood of negatively affecting the neurodevelopment of their fetus. In addition, the probability of their child acquiring a mental illness
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Our environments indeed shape us.
Psychological and environmental factors intertwine, both supporting the premise that the trigger of emotional stress may stimulate a mental illness. It is no secret that severe psychological trauma may lead to mental illness. One’s suffering in the form of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse increases the risk, though it is also dependent on the individual’s reaction to those stressors. Childhood neglect or an early loss of a parent all provide psychological risk factors for mental illness.

Environmental factors include the challenges we face in our lifespan. Deeply rooted in the psychological effect these changes have, each stressor can be a potential risk factor. Triggers such as the illness of a relative, divorce, change in jobs, or schools all present the possibility of mental disorders.
Living in poverty or dysfunctional family life can cause one to experience an episode of mental illness. Political unrest, socio-cultural expectations, discrimination, and social disadvantage are catalysts that can cause long-lasting consequences to one’s mental well-being. Each stressor has the power to drive one into a mood or anxiety-related disorder. A common mental health condition is post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by distressing events that one witnesses or experiences.

The length of the exposure, the severity, one’s age, and prior stresses are all conditions that determine the way one is affected. With the notion that we are all unique individuals, we must acknowledge that one may be more resilient to certain traumatic stressors than others. Our resilience varies due to our characteristics, personality types, coping mechanisms, and previous trauma.

There is beauty in the idea that none of us walk the same paths. Our journey and response to our environment uniquely define each of us. While providing us with an empathetic lens to which we should view others and mental health.
The only path you know is yours, so before making a quick judgment on one’s mental illness, understand the variation and cumulative causes that may have got them there.

SIGNS OF MENTAL ILLNESS

SIGNS OF MENTAL ILLNESS

“How did I miss it?” We often blame ourselves for failing to observe mental illness in those around us. Our minds run in circles wondering, how was I blind to it all. ” I didn’t see it coming.” We harbor feelings of guilt, contemplating whether we were too consumed in our own worlds to notice the changes in others. We begin to feel ashamed as we realize our neglect for those living under the same roof. Or maybe it was the colleague we spoke to every day or the close friend we didn’t think to check on.

Whoever it may be, this usually occurs for one of three reasons.


1- Denial.
2- Lack of knowledge regarding mental illness and the ability to notice early warning signs.
3- Unable to devote time to others as you navigate your mental health struggles.

Regardless of the reason, it’s not your fault. Wait. Unless you knew and refused to help, then damn that’s on you. No need to feel attacked, I’ma explain. If you’re aware that a family member or friend may struggle with a mental illness and do nothing, this may worsen their disorder. As the illness persist’s it may become more challenging to treat and overcome. Hence the importance of early intervention that proves to reduce the severity of a mental illness. Not only are you failing to help, but you’re prolonging a disorder and hindering treatment. Would your approach be the same with a physically visible wound? I wonder.

Now back to those initial reasons. Denial is a common feeling amongst family and friends who experience a loved one with a mental illness. Most refuse to accept ‘mental illness’ due to the stigma attached. It is more comforting to believe it is a phase, a temporary setback. The idea of not confronting it provides a safety net of it not being a reality. Denial is a defense mechanism to protect the unknown. Then comes comparisons.
“Mona from down the street is much worse, she hasn’t gone for treatment, so you don’t need to, you’re fine.”
Clinging on to dismissal. Family and friends compare mental health with one another to satisfy their belief that their beloved isn’t as bad. A big no-no. Everybody’s mental health journey is unique and cannot be reduced to what Mona down the street is going through. No two paths will be the same. You are rejecting their mental illness in the hope of preserving your peace of mind.

I am a firm believer in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Knowledge is Power.” So when it comes to lacking knowledge on mental illness, I believe there is an easy fix. Too many have succumbed to the notion, “Ignorance is bliss” denying themselves the best tool of understanding. Many miss early signs of mental illness ~ quite simply because they don’t know them. Equipping yourself with information puts you in a position of power where you chip away at the ‘control.’ The control of the mental illness on your loved one and your family/friend dynamics. Once you break the barrier of stigma, knowledge will welcome you with open hands. The choice is yours.

Finally, in some cases, family and friends could be experiencing mental health difficulties that prevent them from devoting their attention to others. They may be going through a period of poor mental health due to living with a mentally ill individual. Before diagnosis, there is a ripple effect within households. Tensions arise as family and friends become depressed and deeply anxious about their loved ones. Consumed with stress, many feel helpless. However, hope is not lost.

Lighten the load, take the time to get advice, and reach out. Begin with educating yourself on ways to show support while figuring out your boundaries. We all have limits on what we can give. There are many ways to take care of yourself and support your loved one. You can start by researching education centers/courses that cater to your needs and theirs. You can learn about different mental illnesses and symptoms. You can find support groups for them and yourself.

Early warning signs are vital before you approach the initial conversation with your loved one. Make sure you’re well-versed on potential signs of them having a mental illness. Note you are exercising a role of support; by no means are you fixing. Have an open, honest conversation based on research and what you have observed paired with how they feel.

Just like road signs that provide direction, this will too.
Early warning signs of mental illness:

~ Appetite: Dramatic changes in eating habits, loss of appetite, or increased hunger

~ Sleep: Changes in sleeping patterns, excessive sleeping, constant fatigue, or inability to sleep (insomnia)

~ Mood: Dramatic shifts/ extreme moods, the constant fluctuation of highs and lows, rapid changes in emotions

~ Isolation/ Withdrawal: Social withdrawal, avoiding family and friends, withdrawal from hobbies and interests

~ Daily functioning: Inability to carry out prior routine, daily activities like work/study or everyday problems

~ Substance Abuse: Excessive use of alcohol and drugs

~ Anxiety: Increased fear and excessive nervousness, worrying and paranoia

~ Detachment from reality: Hallucinations, delusions of things that do not exist outside their mind

~ Relating: Unable to relate to people and situations, inability to maintain relationships

~ Sex drive: Extreme changes in sexual activity

~ Illogical speech/ thinking: Disorganized speech with no meaning, thinking becomes irrational an influx of magical/fantasy thought patterns, belief in powers

~Disorganized behaviour: Behaving in an odd, unusual way, acts in an uncharacteristic manner

~ Suicidal thinking: Wanting to hurt themselves, inflict pain and thoughts of taking their own life. (Urgent Help is needed)

If a combination of signs occurs without a recent linked event or trauma, it may be time to have that conversation. Support your loved ones by offering them the necessary information and steps. It takes a community. Allow yourself to experience the chain of emotions while being proactive in your ability to help.

Mind Over Matter.

COPING AMID COVID-19

COPING AMID COVID-19

Who would have thought we’d be facing new realities, forcing us to close the door to normalcy in the form of a global pandemic. Okay, maybe Bill Gates, but for the average Joe or plain Jane, COVID-19 caught us unawares. It continues to sweep across the globe sending nations into a state of panic and fear. As the two-year mark approaches since our battle began, we are still faced with uncertainty as the world starts to rebuild what has been broken and lost.

Undoubtedly the death of humans worldwide at the hands of the pandemic is our most tragic loss as we continue to see loved ones fighting for their lives.

The world came to a standstill as the list of losses painfully added up.

Each country had its response to mitigate the spread of the virus by imposing lockdowns and restrictive policies.
Countries far and wide have been grappling with the socio-economic impact of this health crisis. For months communities lived from hand to mouth as various sectors faced shutdowns and closed signs became more permanent. The streets were silent as chaos struck. It straight up felt like a movie minus the climactic scene where the hero/heroine saves the day.

Society felt the impact as unemployment rates were on the rise and food insecurity worsen. Like most disasters, low-income groups always get the short end of the stick.
The pandemic has exacerbated the gap between rich and poor due to the lack of resources and financial strain. People’s livelihoods are at risk as many live in extreme poverty with no access to health care services.

It is fair to say that COVID has stripped away most parts of society that we as humans are dependent on and naive to think it hasn’t affected our minds.

From the minute we heard about the threat it posed, humans experienced a combination of fear, stress, and worry. The uncertainty of the unknown virus granted a natural response of concern and disbelief. Rightfully so, people were anxious about their health and the potential risk of putting their families’ well-being in danger. Most are navigating through losing loved ones, income, experiences, and time.

With the primary stress being the physical threat of contracting the virus, many have overlooked the mental strain.
The majority were and are struggling with their mental health. Whether it be overworked medical professionals who are at a heightened risk of exposure feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or the retrenched single mother figuring out her next move, COVID has taken a toll on our mental state.

In households, built-up tensions and frustrations have intensified abuse as bottled-up emotions come to light as acts of explosive rage. Abused victims experience an increase in social isolation with restricted movement and reduced contact with others. Some have started or returned to seeking comfort in substance abuse habits as a means of coping and escaping the increased stress.

With limited social interactions and support, many are feeling alone without the connection of others. The weight of this pandemic starts to feel heavier when the load is not shared. We rely on each other. With support restricted in a physical sense, people can feel cut off from the outside world and retreat to a bubble where that confinement can be lonely. Spending days on end indoors may lead to cabin fever, where one suffers from feeling trapped and enters a state of extreme restlessness/boredom. We should not turn a blind eye to this as it can entice feelings of self-harm and onset depression. People predisposed to mental illness and current mental disorder patients may have had limited access to services, hindering their progress. Our children cant make sense of it all while their worlds turn upside down. Our elderly are facing yet another tragedy as they come to terms with being a high-risk group. Many who tested positive and recovered were stigmatized.
All in all, there isn’t an individual that hasn’t been affected.

Media and social media has served us in both a negative and positive aspect.

On the one hand, it has kept us all connected virtually. On the other hand, it has created a frenzy with the constant update of statistics that remind us daily of the threat we face while perpetuating falsehoods that have downplayed the reality of the virus. Conspiracy theories flooded social media platforms, misinformation that is responsible for creating setbacks. I’m always down for welcoming justified perspectives but people seemed to be wilding out. Yes, by nature we understand most things as cause and effect. Humans need to reason and rationalize matters, especially of this magnitude. However, theories were creating anxiety the more you scrolled, rather than equipping one with educated thought-provoking explanations.

Our ‘hero’ disguised as the inception of the vaccine created a calming force amongst some and increased anxiety with others. Once again, false news surfaced and drove many to believe there was more to being vaccinated against COVID. People who never had this internal conflict before stood in line with an influx of thoughts and suspicions. Once vaccinated, many feared for the after-effects and the opinions of others.

Dealing with a disaster that has heightened anxiety, we do a great job at creating more. Let’s refrain from lighting matches on a fire that’s been burning. Instead, we need to rally together in support of one another. Before we can achieve this, we need to start with ourselves. First, let’s establish that it’s okay to have good and bad days, no one expects you to be positive Polly 24/7. Forced optimism to suppress your human experience will only get you so far – welcome the yin and the yang.

Self-care during this time should be one’s utmost priority.

We can focus on building inner peace by getting out into nature, breathing fresh air again, and being thankful for the small blessings. Exercising and working on your physical health can often build your mind from the outside. Activities like yoga and relaxation techniques can help one feel calm and centered. It’s astounding what breathwork can do, bringing a deep sense of tranquility and reminding us that we should be grateful to be breathing. One of the things that personally helped me is finding a routine during stricter lockdown levels. Following a schedule allows you to balance yourself in an era where you cannot control the external chaos but you can control what you choose to do.

Many have suffered from irregular sleeping patterns and overall feelings of agitation. We see it every day, the Karens at the grocery store, vent-up drivers on the road, or the neighbour that no longer greets. Our communities are frustrated, the mask doesn’t do a good job of covering that up. If there was a time to show compassion and remind each other what it is to be human it’s now. To help us slowly work our way back, we can prioritize healthy habits. Healthy eating is essential to ensure we are feeding our brains with nourishing foods and maximizing our energy levels. Speaking of what we take in, limiting time on social media or detoxing can serve us well. The world is constantly going through tragedy and internalizing it can be detrimental to our peace of mind.

Taking note of our screen time can help us steer clear of receiving negative news constantly and feeling burdened with the world’s issues. This goes for opinions and gossip too, decipher what kind of conversations you choose to engage in. Don’t let the noise in. Substitute your phone time with satisfying productive hobbies like gardening, DIY, or arts and crafts. Invest in mindfulness meditation which can help you block out distractions and become self-aware.

Call, check-in with family and friends, a message can go a long way too. Make yourself available once you’re in a good shape to do so.
Embrace those who may find it hard to adjust back into social settings and have social anxiety. Slowly suggest one on one coffee dates or hikes, even a late-night cruise with good music may be all a person needs. Emphasis on the ‘good music’.

Now I wonder when we’ll receive emails without the common intro “during these unprecedented times” but for now things are looking up. Let’s focus on what we can do for ourselves and for others. Peace over everything.

Mind over matter.

HEAVY ON THE SOWING AND REAPING.

HEAVY ON THE SOWING AND REAPING.

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.

Evolving.

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.