Today is the last day, which means I will be giving a presentation in a few hours about the language we use and the labels we place on people with mental challenges.
My presentation will be judged upon my knowledge of the subject as well as my delivery of the information. I am not nervous to speak in a roomful of people. I’ve done this more times than I can count. The only difference here is I am being graded on my performance. Best that I stick to the books and keep my subject with the facts, which is fine
Either way, the truth here is simple. The truth is we all have challenges of our own. Truth is everyone is trying to outrun something in their life at least once; whether it be a simple thing or more complex; everyone has something to tangle with at some point.
This is life. However, there is a population which I happen to be part of that experiences different challenges and feels them a bit differently. No one asks for this. No one asks to obsess over things; no one wants to be depressed or have mood swings or be manic one minute and down the next.
No one ever asked to have depressive thinking, at least not to the best of my knowledge, and yet what do people say about this?
People tell you, “Get over it,” or “Just let it go,” as if any of this were a choice when first off, although fear based perceptions are often exaggerated, and although fear and shame work in tandem together to help create our own misperception, the truth is perception is not truth but more so, our perception is only true to us.
The truth is we have all succumbed to the deception of our perception. We have all submitted to our own misconceptions and accepted them as truths. Meanwhile, we limit and we title, we name and we label, and we fall in line with a stigma that defines or describes people that are limited by a restrictive view of a mental challenge.
So the question remains: What am I going to say?
I suppose I will read the script, which is partly what I am supposed to do—and then I will add my personal spin to add flavor, which is also partly what I’m supposed to do. However, I am also supposed to keep with the fidelity of the program.
I will allow the crowd to interact. I will ask open-ended questions that relate to the subject at hand and I will deliver my presentation to the best of my ability.
The class that I will be certified to teach is 8 hours long and the subjects in the class cover the gamut, from mild, moderate, to severe mental challenges.
But this is life, isn’t it?
We all go through challenges at times and they all range from mild, moderate to severe. I think the idea behind this is to normalize or humanize this instead of being the way we are sometimes, which is limited by misconceptions and stigmatized labels that do nothing else but make life a bit more difficult for others that have more challenges to contend with.
One of my favorite quotes is from a man named Robert Fulghum. This comes from his book, “All I Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten,” in which he writes about the common saying, “Sticks and stones may beak my bones.”
Only, Fulghum adds a different and more poignant ending than the usual, “But names will never hurt me.” Instead (and a bit more honestly) Fulghum writes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones . . . but words can break my heart.”
I believe this is true.
There is a question that asks, “What’s in a word?”
The answer is sometimes everything, which is why I am preparing to give a presentation about the words we use to define and describe people with mental illness.
See, this is why I’m here. I have passion for this. I am not forced to take this class by an employer. I am not winning any votes for this or making extra money. In fairness and full disclosure, I will be offering my lessons as part of my business services; however, this does not mean my reasons to become part of this movement aren’t personal.
The truth is I want to see people overcome. The truth is like anyone else in the world, I experience my own challenges that range from mild, moderate, to severe.
The last thing I want to do is be stuck or challenged by a definition or description that either emasculates or limits me to a stigma.
In the case of mental health first aid, this is not limited to people with mental challenges. Instead, this allows us to be helpful to each other in times when life’s struggles are more than mild.
This program is intended to be helpful to people in crisis and support them to find the appropriate help or at minimum, provide support until the crisis is alleviated.
No judgement, just help, which if you ask me is a beautiful thing.