The mind is a powerful entity,
By no means a simple thing.
Neural pathways connectively wind to explore the intricate depths of one’s existence.
Which should be nurtured, almost like a mother’s offspring,
Caring, warm and persistent.
It has a propensity to wander aimlessly about,
Like a carefree child, without any doubts.
At times the mind may deceive you,
Past the point of sincere oblivion,
Leading you to a path of self-destruction, neglect and abuse.
Oh how tragic this situation appears!
Until the acceptance of help bursts from the seams,
To protect the fragile mind,
To the point that it is delicately repaired,
To confront and conquer each day,
So that the mind is no longer in a state of disarray;
~ Maddie x
Happy Mental Health Awareness Week!
This year’s theme promotes the importance of nature to soothe one’s mental well-being. Officially conveyed as “Let nature in, strengthen your well-being ~ Mā te taiao kia whakapakari tōu oranga!”.
How beautiful and apt a sentiment this is!
Over the past eleven years of my diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa (Note: Anorexia Nervosa is considered a mental illness. Despite one physically observing the emaciated physique, symptoms and irrational behaviours pertaining eating and drinking, all is ferociously manipulated by the thoughts which enter one’s vulnerable mind. What is viewed physically is felt mentally, associated with depression, anxiety, OCD and other co-morbidities), I have developed a sense of pride of living with a mental illness. I do not allow my mental illness to define me. However, I freely and openly accept that it is part of my lifestyle. I am blessed to have been provided with a mental illness as without the illness, I would not have experienced, learned or met the brilliant individuals that I have.
I am not suggesting that all whom are living with a mental illness be at the exact same stage in their journey as I am, as we are each completely different and travelling our independent journeys. How beautifully intricate and magnificent is this unity and understanding?
Please be kindly reminded that Mental Health Awareness Week is not limited to only those whom have been provided a diagnosis or appellation for a mental illness. Rather, it is an opportunity to reflect on how we each acknowledge, nourish and protect our mental well-being on a daily basis. Similarly, such a week allows us to observe others behaviours, words expressed and demeanours, ensuring that all are maintaining a balanced, healthy and contented lifestyle. A sense of comradery, compassion, sympathy, empathy and kind regard for our fellow humans.
Although I am an advocate for mental health and adore the concept and implementation of New Zealand’s national Mental Health Awareness Week, I simultaneously discover it peculiar how we cannot appreciate others and our own mental health each day of the year? Why must we be confined to the importance of one week to simply seek comfort, nourishment, kindness and potential support for ourselves and others?
Is mental health only a topic of interest when something terrible, such as suicide or self harm occurs? Why only converse about the matter when such acts occur when we could be openly expressing, disseminating and respecting mental illness and health persistently?
According to the New Zealand Health Survey in 2016/2017, it was discovered that one in six adults had been diagnosed with some form of mental disorder at some stage during their life. Similarly, the most recent statistics related to suicide presents that 668 individuals took their own lives in the period between 2017/2018. Although the figures mainly were associated to those of European descent, a high proportion were Maori (462 deaths). These deaths were proportionately higher for males (475 deaths) as opposed to females (193 deaths) with majority of those sadly taking their own lives between the ages of 20-24 years old followed closely by those between the ages of 45-49 years of age.
These statistics are frightening for a small nation located at the bottom of the world. What is causing an exponential amount of individuals residing in New Zealand to develop a mental illness? What stimulates the minds to partake in self harm and suicide? What is occurring in our society, communities, homes or personal lives which may be contributing to this debilitating trend?
These questions are continually posed by many. The most common reasons for the ascending trend that I have been accustomed (and also vigorously debate some) to are as follows:
– Colonisation of New Zealand. Maori historically being deprived of their natural resources, land, language and heritage.
– The gap between the affluent and poor. Low socio-economic areas and low income attribute to “poorer” mental health status.
– Previous Government and economic reforms.
– The education system; persistently promoting one to receive the highest grades, being accepted into University as the only true means of employment and competing in one’s chosen field of study.
– The belief that one must be the best at all that one pursues and accomplishes.
– Comparison to others due to education, employment, social stigmas and beliefs.
There are an abundance of concepts as to why many may struggle with their mental health and overall well-being and why many take their own lives. However, is there truly one answer? Similarly, there should not be one model that is congruent for all for the treatment of a mental illness as each mind, although may be diagnosed with the same mental illness, differs. Why confine one’s mental health to one component to society, one theory and one therapy treatment? This is not so with any physical ailment or disease. Each case is treated individually, with the patient as the centre of the treatment. The mind is such an intricate, complex and phenomenal entity that it is such an arduous task to successfully pinpoint one exact reason why mental illness eventuates and the subsequent acts. Which are absolutely the fault of no one!
No one model fits all!! Some things in life are unexplainable and too complex for us humans to adequately comprehend.
Subsequently, the notion that it is acceptable to experience detrimental thoughts and live with a mental illness must be expressed and conversed about liberally within society. We should encourage others to be proud to live with a mental illness, to share their individual journey and to reduce the stigmas associated with mental illness and health within New Zealand. Similarly, it is acceptable to seek and ask for assistance, whether male or female. Mental illness does not discriminate. Thus, these societal attitudes and beliefs are to be challenged generously. I implore you, if you have not implemented previously, to do so this week. Seize the opportunity and know that if we can normalise the topic of mental health, the more progress shall be made and the more “normal” and inclusive those struggling or living with a diagnosis shall feel. Appreciate others and yourself!
(Normal – what is normal? In my opinion, there is no such concept as normal as we are each uniquely individual. Why adhere to the status quo of civilisation when one is able to emerge as their true self?).
We each encounter difficult, loathsome and sombre days, weeks or months. Negative, crippling and awful thoughts rapidly enter our minds just as expediently as the positive and encouraging thoughts. However, as we possess these thoughts, we mustn’t feel obliged or enticed to act upon the detrimental thoughts, just how at times we do not wish to acknowledge the positive thoughts, dependent on our mood. Yet we must remind ourselves that these are merely thoughts; they enter, make their appearance, are acknowledged and then they eventually depart. No action is necessary if the thoughts do not serve one.
Care for your own mental health daily. It is by no means an act of vanity, egocentricity or self indulgence. Admittedly, I desperately struggle with self care holistically, yet understand that it is pertinent for survival. We must acknowledge our greatness, how amazing our minds are and that we are in control of the thoughts once they enter our minds. Remember one is unable to flourish if we do not adequately nourish our minds.
Below are possible ideas or activities one could partake in to brighten and improve the state of one’s mental health:
– Venture out for a walk. Notice your surroundings, to immerse yourself in nature.
– Mindful breathing; diaphragmatic breathing. Inhaling deep breaths to ensure sufficient oxygen is entering the body and releasing the air calmly.
– Mindfulness (focusing on the present moment, body scanning etc.).
– Baking and cooking favourite dishes.
– Eating a balanced and healthy diet consistent of an abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fibre, carbohydrates, protein, fats and foods which are congruent with your digestive health (NOTE: majority of serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter / chemical, is established in the gastrointestinal system. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy digestive system to ensure a healthy, strong and contented mind).
– Hydration. Drinking eight plus glasses of water per day.
– Sitting or lying in the sun to receive and increase your levels of vitamin D and melatonin which will aid with sleep.
– Listen to music.
– Exercise (strength training, social / team sports, yoga, walking, Pilates, kick boxing, martial arts, dancing, rowing…a preferred sport).
– Attend mass or pray if you have a religious belief.
– Journal your emotions, thoughts, feelings, experiences and daily encounters to express yourself in words.
– Ask for hugs. Such warming and loving embraces nourish the soul!
– Allocate time for self care (painting nails, shopping, arranging time to spend with friends and family, a warm shower or bath, solitude, reading a book, watching a movie, sleeping, gardening…).
– Maintaining a daily routine to establish familiarity and structure. (Please remember that although routines are a fantastic way to allow all to remain in order and controlled, not all in life is able to be manipulated by our individual powers or humble authority).
– Converse with others whom you trust liberally about how you are feeling. Seek assistance if necessary.
One is by no mean restricted to these few recommendations to assist with one’s mental health, as there are a plethora of other options, not listed as we each individually delight in differing tasks to improve our state of mind and outlook on life and this is ok!!
It is ok to be you. It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to seek help. It is ok to be anything you desire! Be you!!
Compassionately care for yourself and others daily, not just throughout this beautiful week commemorating Mental Health Awareness Week, but for as long as humanly possible. Why simply acknowledge, respect and care for one’s own and others mental health / well-being, when our minds are serving us for our entire lives?
Never lose hope in the life you have been preciously gifted. It is a blessing. Although one may not experience a great day consistently, there is something amazing in every day. Observe, search and you shall graciously discover.
Happy Mental Health Awareness Week my lovelies!
All of my thoughts, hugs and love,
Please remember that you are never walking alone on your journey through mental health. Please seek assistance and do not struggle independently as you are worth more; you are entitled. For assistance please contact your local GP or the following AT ANY TIME:
Free call or text 1737 to converse with a trained counsellor.
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 or free text a trainee counsellor on 4202.
Or in case of emergency phone 111
These helplines are here to assist you no matter what and at any time you require.
P.S. Nature is truly beautiful and something many of us take for granted. Next time you are outside or even inside for that matter, look to the outside scenery and surroundings. I encourage you to observe the colours, forms, structures, sounds and textures. Admire and mindfully be present with your surroundings. It will allow an air of serenity, enjoyment and bliss to joyfully enter your life 🌸🌸