Personally I think we are. If you sit any group of seemingly ordinary people, in a room, and persuaded them to speak – in detail – about their lives so far… My goodness, can you imagine the stuff that would come pouring out of each of us?
Actually, I don’t need to try too hard to imagine it as a friend recently attended a confidence building course and doing exactly that was one of the very first tasks. Obviously what was said in that environment is confidential and she only shared the impact that the exercise had. But what her account of things did remind me is, that no matter what it looks like on the outside, we are all a sum of the good AND the bad things we’ve experienced throughout our lives.
With this week being Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s great to see and hear so much focus being directed to a subject which is still seen as taboo to discuss. Radio stations across the country have been coordinating ‘Mental Health Minutes’, KISS UK and it’s group of stations is promoting a petition calling for every work place to have a trained mental health first aider available and the various soaps all have stories running which touch on one, or more, mental health conditions.
Of course all this is wonderful but I can’t help but ponder – what is society actually doing to tackle the root causes of avoidable conditions? (And let us be clear that some conditions are absolutely NOT avoidable!).
I’m thinking more of things like the pace of life we all feel compelled to live at. The madness that has us emailing people who are sat at the next desk and then feeling the need to ask them if they’ve read the email because they haven’t responded immediately. The expectations of immediacy in all that we do. Our incessant need for more, more, more. The workplace cultures that have colleagues competing for the ‘who works latest/hardest’ award (of course there isn’t an award, yet it is still a bragging point for some to claim to have “still been working at midnight”).
The pressures on our children to achieve standards measured by tests that don’t actually assess them as a whole – just two aspects of their academic ability. Whilst literacy and numeracy are important, testing 10 and 11 year olds provides no measure of the work of parents and teachers to help children become well rounded, kind, thoughtful individuals with skills and attributes that tests can’t measure.
The madness that sees the likes of Kim Kardashian advertising appetite supressants on her social media accounts where she has young fans viewing her as a role model. The polar opposite madness of sweets, chocolate, crisps and processed foods being cheaper and more readily available than healthy food. Meanwhile impressionable youngsters are being bombarded with unrealistic images of what they ‘should’ look like resulting in increasing numbers of young people struggling with eating disorders, body dismorphia, or feeling the need to take extreme steps to ‘be good enough’.
The insanity of doctors dishing out medications to treat preventable illnesses yet the NHS can’t afford to investing in prevention instead.
You get my drift!
Surely at some point society has to decide enough is enough and that life needs to knock back a notch or two. That we no longer need to have smartphones, ipads and wifi wherever we are. That social media is just that, another form of media which should be kept in perspective. That, just as we shouldn’t believe all we read in the papers, so we should apply the ame principle to the apparently perfect lives portrayed on social channels. That actually, disconnecting to spend time with our loved ones without looking at phones every 10 seconds is NOT a waste of time and doesn’t mean we are missing anything. Rather we are taking the time to value those who mean the most to us and who, before we know it will be spreading their wings.
So, going back to the start, we are all a little bit mad, we are all carrying a host of ‘stuff’ and we should always remember that when we are dealing with other people. You have no idea what other people’s stories are. Be kind, be helpful, be human. And, as I am trying to instill in my own two daughters, treat others how you would wish to be treated yourself.