Elisa a. Escalante/ LCSW/ 5/27/2022
Though I’ve worked with people on an individual level for most of my career, we clinicians, tend to also notice things on mass scales. There’s individual think, and group think. Individuals have themes and thinking patterns, as do the masses. Naturally, after a crisis, many will go into psychological defense modes that are meant to protect and nurture their pain, grief and trauma. Beyond that, we have ever-growing polarization. People must flock to their social media accounts to not only express grief and remorse, but also get ready to combat up into their keyboard warrior mode with a goal of defending the policies that they know will be attacked. Because with tragedy, comes shock, then a want/ need to fix, then opinions, then fighting. Quite honestly the cycle has gotten so predictable, that it’s hard to continue watching.
But I want to take the time to talk about something that really matters: PREVENTION. Prevention is NOT just about “What law is going to change?” Or “What is THAT person going to do about this problem?” Or “What programs should THEY put in place?” These phrases are all an example of Deflection, when we strive to push all blame onto other’s and protect ourselves from any blame.
Prevention is EVERYONE’s responsibility. Every single day. And, if you happen to live in a country that has a consistent problem, then as an individual you must acknowledge you are a part of that problem in one way or another. Prevention, from a mental health crisis standpoint, includes: 1- Having empathy, 2- Not treating people like shit, or being a bully. 3- Listening when someone is crying out for help. 4- NOT invalidating someone when they are crying out for help. 5- Less judging overall. 6- Personal self-care, as well as teaching our youth self-care. 7- Knowing when to STOP arguing. 8- Learning and implementing de-escalation techniques. 9- Fostering healthy boundaries. 10- Speaking up vs being a bystander. 11- Volunteering/ donating to helping agencies. 12- Taking accountability/ Working on your personal integrity.
The list could go on and on, but the message is that every individual character matters. I’ve seen mental health come a long way in the past 14 years. (Since I started working in the profession) The issue, unfortunately, is that we still choose to be a crisis response country vs a preventative country. We fail to do the things that matter to address ‘in the moment’ issues, and often let it simmer beneath the surface, until catastrophe happens. Then, there is shock. I believe the harder message to put across is the fact that it takes daily action and consistency on yourself, in order to help the masses. When people become so individualistic, they forget they are a part of a larger group: A society. People forget that emotions and behaviors are addictive and contagious. We forget about the trickle-down effect. Or, Ping pong effect; when we bounce our emotions back & forth in a battle.
Small changes that can make Big Differences:
- Study Mental Health: There are a million other things people would rather do, but it wouldn’t hurt to study more on this topic. Our brain is so important to our livelihood, quite honestly it’s shocking that more people do not care about this. The brain is the agent & control center of our daily activity. If our brain grows ill and starts to malfunction, it impacts everything. Yes, including our bodies, the phrase of “it’s all in your head” is quite inaccurate. Chronic illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD have already been proven to release harmful chemicals into the body. Even if you do not have a mental disorder, you absolutely know people that do. Also, it can be you at any moment of any day in your future. Even if you are not genetically susceptible, EVERYONE is environmentally susceptible.
- Refrain from Judging: Judging is the psychological ‘go to’ we resort to when we have deep rooted insecurities. It’s the ultimate act of hurting someone else in order to ease your own wound. We are meant to do better than that. When we learn to address our own internal pain, and not hurt someone else, we can then help ourselves while doing less harm to others. If you are judgmental, explore your own pain, because you may be doing long term damage to other’s if you don’t.
- Do Less Harm: Doing less harm isn’t just the obvious of: Don’t kill, don’t assault, don’t abuse. It’s also the less obvious stuff. Do not enable, do not manipulate, be honest, do not meddle in other people’s lives just because you think you can or that ‘they will thank you later’. Stop believing you have so much control over others, you do not. Don’t use someone’s pain as your own personal agenda, especially if they did not ask you to. Try to refrain from coming to the conclusion that you are a ‘good person’. Since we’re all human, there is a strong likelihood you may have blinders to some of the harm you do, be brave enough to explore your flaws and how you impact others negatively sometimes.
- Actually take care of yourself: This, unfortunately, is something that a lot of us Half Ass. And we believe it’s for the better. People often believe sacrificing their self-care for superficial & materialistic things is worth it. It is not. You run the risk of turning into a half cared for human in a terrible mood that is unpleasant to be around. There is no debate on this. When I am a sleep deprived, junk food eating, no free time having, sedentary human being, I am pretty awful not only to others, but to myself. I’m sure many can relate. When you neglect you, you hurt everyone else.
- Give Social Media a Break from you: it’s simple to say take breaks from social media, and the answer of ‘why?’ is pretty obvious. But I also want to frame it in the opposite direction: Social media needs a break from you sometimes too. Are you about to be unpleasant and verbally abuse people all day because something messed up your mood or triggered your maladaptive thinking patterns? We’ve all been there. Unfortunately now, it seems socially acceptable to cyber bully or cyber manipulate. The “Do no harm” concept does not automatically stop because it’s the ‘online world’. There is much harm we can do online, this needs to be put in perspective. Again, Trickle down and ping pong effects.
- Avoid talking if you don’t have constructive advice: People truly underestimate when silence needs to happen. I’ve seen in real life and in the online world, that giving advice has become such a compulsive habit for people. Half the time, the advice is terrible or non-constructive. If you are not a professional on a topic or a mentor of any sort, it is absolutely okay to be a listener, and to practice your empathy skills. Most people need work on empathy. It is, in my professional opinion, one of the most underrated assets humans have. We do not exercise it as often as we probably should. It’s easy to just tell people what to do based on your limited personal experience, it’s harder to recognize that this is a whole person that is struggling, and you may not possess the knowledge or foundation to help, but you can be kind.
- Quality Solitude & Social time: One of the best ways to gain back a sense of community, camaraderie and connectedness would be to have more quality social time. This doesn’t mean go out to be on your phone the entire time. It doesn’t mean go out to get intoxicated and barely talk to people. It means quality connection, quality conversation, and enjoyable hobbies with people that have similar interests. Then on the flip side, when you need that time to yourself to recharge, is that quality too? Are you doing things that feed your soul, mind and body? Or are you engaged in compulsive behaviors that simply pass the time, but do nothing for you except long term chronic damage? Every passing moment matters.
Prevention does not mean: ‘to do nothing’ and wait. Prevention means, daily consistent actions in order to reduce ongoing harm.
One thought on “Prevention is EVERYONE’s Responsibility. Every. Single. Day.”
This! SO MUCH. 100%. Sharing.
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