I sometimes call myself a mental health advocate. I’d like to say I am one, but sometimes I feel like I’m not. Because I don’t know what to do.
We need more awareness, yes, but actual awareness, critical awareness of how we form our views of mental health and the intersectionality of societal issues. I can – to a point – help raise awareness, and I try to. But if I’m honest it feels a bit useless sometimes. I honestly have no idea how to make tangible change. Of course we can write letters and go to protests – but in the current political atmosphere I wonder if it’s doing anything at all; it’s hard to watch the government become what I genuinely believe is more and more fascist and not know a way forward. Then of course we can also make art, have conversations, create peer connections and connect with nature. This is generally what I focus on because it seems achievable, and I really do believe small changes build up and matter greatly. But underneath it all I am at a loss.
Why am I telling you this? Because I think a lot of us feel helpless. And because I want to explain why I don’t share more actions to take – because I don’t know what actions to take. It’s something I want to focus on more, and I think maybe a good place to start is by sharing openly that I don’t know what to do. It’s easy for us to sit back and do nothing simply because we are unsure of what to do, or because we are afraid. The sense of hopelessness or helplessness is perhaps one of the most pernicious ills we have learnt; it separates us and takes away our power even further. Of course it’s understandable. How the hell do we stop climate change when the overwhelming majority of emissions come from huge corporations? How do we reform the mental health system when most people are unaware of its issues and the bodies in charge aren’t listening? I don’t know. But I think maybe, just maybe, it might start with people working to build communities again; to build connections again.
I’m an 18 year old who can barely keep their own head above water some days. But I want to help. I want to connect and be a part of change. I want to listen and learn and build. I’m sure in the future I will think differently about some of the things I’ve already said and written; I’m sure I have and will get things wrong, even cause harm through mistakes. And you know what? That’s ok. Because fear of getting it wrong, of being helpless or not having a voice, are not worth staying silent. All we can do is do the best we know how to at the time and stay open to learning.
I don’t know how to begin to face the systematic issues with mental health treatment. I don’t know how to involve everyone in the conversation, how to raise my own voice without speaking over others. I don’t know if there should be no psychiatry at all (because it is absolutely a harmful system), or reform it, or if it is even possible to reform. I don’t know how we can use language differently and how it might help. I don’t know! But I want to find out. I want to listen to all the voices, I want to learn and I want to have a go. Yeah, we’ll probably get things wrong. But we have to try, right?
If you have any resources, readings, ideas or anything else you’d like to share to help me (and others) grow in our action, please share them in the comments or via the contact page.
Sending love and support to you all today xxx