I sat in a classroom for 8-hours, learning about mental health with the main premise, based on a few different acronyms. One idea above all stood out to me. They called it the four L’s.
Two instructors alternated, subject by subject, which I thought was brilliant because their upbeat energy was enough to keep the classroom alive. They complimented each other very well and kept the information interesting, which is good because an 8-hour class is a long class to be in. All the while, both instructors stressed the four L’s, which are Live, Love, Laugh, and Learn.
Each of the four L’s is essential to healthy living and important to understand when assessing a person in a mental or emotional crisis. However, the idea of the class is not to solve the crisis. Instead, the idea is to assist and support until the appropriate help arrives or the crises are settled. The idea is that we are not professional, same as someone that learned CPR in a first aid class is not a professional. Put simply, we are educated enough to be helpful.
We discussed self-harm, suicide, and the difference between anxiety and panic attacks. Then of course, they discussed drug and alcohol abuse as well as our attention to those around us, in case there is a problem.
I have attended this class before and many others that are just like it. I think mental health first aid is important. I have taken CPR classes before and other first aid classes. I’ve taken a class to operate the little machine at my day-job, just in case someone has a heart attack.
In this case, the machine has a computer, which will automatically assesses if someone needs a shock —and to be honest, I hope I never have to use this machine. And chances are I probably won’t ever be in this kind of crisis (at least I hope not.) But I can say this without any uncertainty. I have used the skills learned in mental health first aid class on more than one occasion.
I have learned on each occasion and I have also learned the following, which is i have so much more to learn.
I have witnessed panic attacks. I comforted a person that literally thought he was going to die. He believed it too. I sat with a man that was much larger than me and physically dangerous. Together, he and I were able to calm his nerves until the paramedics arrived.
Moreover, I have received phone calls from friends, late at night, while in the middle of an attack and helped assist with breathing techniques to help calm them, which is why I think mental health first aid is important. because the truth is there is more need for mental health techniques than how to assess for a heart attack.
Throughout the class, the instructors referred to the four L’s as a baseline to see which of the four are being affected in crises. And me being me, I thought about the four L’s a bit deeper than just the surface level.
Live, Love, Laugh, and Learn are four valid needs. No one wants to lose either of them. Rest assured; no one wants to feel depressed or be depressed. Nobody wants to live a loveless life or a life without laughter. We all want to learn; we all want to know and understand and explore. The question comes down to our life and how our choices affect either of these four points.
Thinking about your life and your patterns, your process, and your routines; some of which may be helpful and others might be less than healthy —however, everything we do is done to honor a thought or a need, a feeling or an idea. Think about this for a minute.
We make choices in our life. Sometimes we feel lost or helpless and hopeless.
This is the worst because nobody wants to feel this way. No one wants to lose control; nobody wants to believe or “Feel” as if they are dying or about lose everything they have.
If given the choice, everyone would ask to Live, Love, Laugh, and Learn to the best of their possible ability; however, life has a tendency to get in the way. Depression is real. So is a chemical imbalance.
Please keep in mind, there are different types of depression. There is clinical and situational. There is mild to moderate and moderate to severe —but yet, not all of this appears on us like a mark or a sign which reads, “Warning! Severely depressed. Please stand back.”
No one knows what goes on behind the eyes of someone else. And we see this and we say things without so much as a hint of interpersonal sensitivity.
We tell people to, “Snap out of it,” or we’ll tell someone with obsessive compulsive disorder, “Just don’t think about it.”
Isn’t that amazing?
This is real.
If given the choice, I would have chosen a different body. I would have picked a different muscle structure. I would be taller. I would be stronger. all of my body parts would be up to my standard. I would have better athletic ability. And, I would never grow so old that I cannot bend or move as well.
If given the choice, I would never be afraid. I would never feel anxious or have a moment of depression.
If given the choice, I would have switched my childhood around. If it were up to me, I would have never had a learning disability or felt so painfully different from others. I would certainly never consider myself as stupid or unworthy.
I would have never had the need to smoke a cigarette, which is literally the most unfulfilling thing in the world, but yet, the image behind the action said something my language could never say.
If given the choice, I would never believe or feel as if I do not fit. I would never be uncomfortable in crowds or have so much as a moment of insecurity.
If it were up to me, there would be no concerns about my fears because I would understand that most of them are actually irrational —and intellectually speaking, I would shrug off the ideas of failure and mistakes because none of them would be personal or internalized.
I would have never had an addiction or an affliction or anything of the sort. If given the choice, I would be able to Live, Love, Laugh and Learn beyond any obstacle because there would be no obstacles. I would be perfect.
But that’s just it. That’s what mental health is focused upon: to overcome emotional or irrational obstacles, to turn problems into possibilities, and obstacles into opportunities. Mental health (as I see it) is the help and mental illness is the obstacle.
There is a saying I remember that goes, “Mental Health is all in your head.”
And this is true.
I believe; therefore I am. This is true too.
If I believe that all I can ever be is sick or less than or lower than others, in fact, I will only be sick or less than and lower than others. If I believe that I cannot Live, Love, Laugh, and Learn as well as others; or more to the point, if I believe I cannot Live, Love, Laugh, or Learn at all, I am naturally going to react to this. I will always try to satisfy the quandary in my brain —and when I can’t or if I cannot solve the crisis or dilemma, then my ability to take care for myself or preform my daily routines or do my job will all be at risk. This is why we come up with mental crutches (A.K.A: coping skills)
This is what it means to be in pain. And sometimes pain comes without an understandable farm; whereas a cut makes sense because we can see this and literally feel it —what happens when we have a broken heart?
What happens when we feel rejected or unworthy? What happens when we feel inefficient or insufficient or when sadness comes without a rhyme or reason; how do we substantiate the weight of something when we have no physical way to see or understand it?
There is a sad statistic about my country, in which I feel it is important to share here. The United States of America makes up for 5% of the world’s population, but yet, we consume 85% of the world’s prescriptive opiates. What does that say about our attention to mental illness? What does this say about our threshold for pain, whether it is physical, personal, or otherwise? What does this say about our ability to Live, Love, Laugh, and Learn?
There is another acronym from the class, which I will share with you. The acronym is A.L.G.E.E
A- Assess for suicide or harm
L- Listen non-judgmentally
G- Give reassurance and information
E- Encourage appropriate professional help
E- Encourage self-help and other support.
Trust me when I tell you, the acronym above is more helpful than you think. Remove the harm or the label of suicide and follow the steps and perhaps we would all be able to help each other whenever help is needed.
Someone in the class asked me why I do what I do.
I explained I love my country. I told them I listen to people complain. I hear people complain to law enforcement. I hear people complain to congress. I have been to town meetings and schools and listened to parents rant and rave about the state of our affairs.
I explained that all I see is a lot of people talking and arguing and voting. And me, I’d rather not talk anymore. I’d rather be in the trenches, fighting back, because while town meetings and votes are great, someone outside is dying because nobody was around to help them.
Live, Love, Laugh and Learn is all anyone wants for themselves. I know this is true. It has to be. Sometimes though, some of us just need a little extra help to get there. Sometimes all of us need some extra help to get there. Now, imagine if we could just drop the stigma?
What an amazing world we would live in.