Taking care of one’s mental health is imperative, not just for the individual, but for society in general
The human capacity to heal is infinite.
In today’s world, high up on the list of priorities are ambition, drive, and progress -- things which give us fulfillment. Often, they come with the heavy price of our time and energy, so much so that being drained has become routine.
Imagine having no self-esteem issues. A sense of mastery in all that you do. Experiencing life through a lens that makes it manageable and meaningful. A sense of coherence and being able to cope with adversity without feeling overwhelmed, or the possibility of a breakdown.
That checklist is difficult to tick off. They are only some of the things enlisted as the outcomes of having a healthy mind.
Many of us experience negative situations, which have affected us throughout our days, and even result in deteriorating health. But research has shown that adverse experiences early on in life are likely to have lasting negative impacts on health throughout our lives.
Examples of adverse childhood experiences (ACE for short) can range from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, emotional and physical neglect, to growing up with single parents, domestic violence, mentally ill household members, etc.
A study called the ACE study, done in the 90s with a sample size of 17,000 participants in the US, has shown that these stressors rarely ever occurred as single events. For example, 60% of the adults who reported childhood sexual abuse reported at least two more stressors.
And what do these stressors lead to in the long run?
According to the study, and many more done thereafter, childhood traumas are associated with increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular and liver diseases, intravenous drug use, alcoholism, adolescent pregnancies, suicide attempts, and many more.
So, while we build our present with the resolute vision of the future, what the research tells us is that the future may look fairly grim.
The statistics are alarming: A top burden of disease among adolescents throughout the world is depression. Number three on the leading causes of death among people between the years of 15 to 29 is suicide.
But we must remember our capacity to heal.
With World Mental Health Day just behind us, it is important to remember that mental health is an unseen component of our overall health. This year’s theme is “young people in a changing world,” and there’s no better time than now to put our focus on those who are the bearers of the change and progress we so badly want to see.
And while we’ve read how widespread and consuming the results of poor mental health can be, there is also research which shows that human beings have an innate ability to adapt and transform positively even after experiencing severe trauma.
To break the cycle of poor mental health, it’s imperative we recognize, without judgment, the quiet and crippling ways in which it affects those around us. Surrounding ourselves with supportive and positive activities can help address the effects of trauma.
There is a distressing lack of space available in Bangladesh where young people can share their thoughts and feelings which burden them. To that end, BRAC has been working in various areas, such as early childhood development -- where children learn in a play-based curriculum carried out in a safe space.
The organization has also launched a month-long campaign to raise awareness about the stigma surrounding the discussion of emotions and experiences. By opening up platforms where people can express themselves, the campaign is focusing on listening, and the impact of having good listeners in our lives.
Having people out there willing to listen is the first step towards unburdening ourselves of the clutter in our minds.
We are all capable and willing to change the face of the world for the better. To build, develop, and achieve real progress. Why not do it with compassion?
Luba Khalili is Deputy Manager, Communications, BRAC.