I was listening to a Mother talk about her child. She was talking about the people who were involved with his program and how they let her son down. We talked for a while. We spoke about the needs of kids that face trouble or live through challenges. We talked about arrests and the bad behavior. Or, more accurately, we talked about the symptoms over the problems and the reasons behind the behavior.
I have been to town hall meetings where parents argued with teachers. I listened to the blaming that went back and forth and yet, I never heard anyone say, “Hey wait, what am I missing here?” or, “What can I do to help make things different?” There was only one time that I can think of where a Mom stood up and asked what she could do to improve things in her own home. Aside from this, I never heard anyone else mention their own role nor was anyone interested in talking about what they could do at home. Instead, I saw angry parents pointing fingers. I listened to teachers and administrators defend their positions. I heard law enforcement defend their positions while parents spoke, accusing them of not doing their job. I witnessed parents speak from the crowd as if they were to grandstand before an audience and impress everyone with their brilliant responses. By the way, none of this was productive.
A local politician asked that I speak to the crowd, which I did. I said my peace and spoke honestly. Of course, there were a few eye-rolls from people in the crowd. But in fairness, what I said was truthful. There is no arguing with the truth. Facts do not care about feelings nor do feelings care about facts. Meanwhile, the truth is we still have a community to maintain. We still have to find a way to coexist, to live together, to coincide and find peace with one another. This means we have to work together in a sense of communal competency. We need community and social cohesion, not dissolution. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Sometimes I wonder about this. Most times, I wonder about the villagers.
There are parents who’ve told me about therapists and programs that let their children down. I’ve heard people discuss their children and their hired mentors who were thought to be “The One.” They swore this would be the person who could help their child. I’ve heard about their expectations and I’ve listened to parents discuss their disappointments. Meanwhile, no one seems to notice that this is a challenge. This is mental health we’re talking about. This goes beyond the understanding of simple choices.
The same as with addiction. I have heard people talk about the endless visits to treatment facilities. Of course, some claim that they spared no expense. Some have told me, “I paid for the best treatment money could buy, and still, no one could help.”
I always say the same thing to this. I say the same thing that I was told. I say the same thing my parents were told.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” No one can force change. We can inspire. We can help. We can advise and yet, all of our skills, our passion, and even our best intentions are not as impactful as we would like them to be. We seem to forget that mental health challenges are challenges for a reason. To simplify them or to suggest another way can only go so far.
Think about weight loss for example. Think about the countless different diets that are out there. Think about all the self-help programs and all the dietitians and nutritionists. There is literally a plethora of information available to lose weight, to live healthier, and to feel better; but yet, there is an estimated 300,000 deaths per year in the United States due to the obesity epidemic.
There are people who struggle and suffer with various mental and emotional challenges. And yet, they know there’s another way. They know what to do. The problem is not what to do; more so, the problem is the direction of our motivation and how we change this. No one asks to be uncomfortable. No one wants to be unhealthy, and yet, preventable deaths are still a threat to us. Not only this, the numbers of preventable deaths are on the rise, not the decline. There have been studies shown that sadly, many premature deaths are preventable, and yet, none of these deaths were prevented. Why? What are we missing?
I shake my head sometimes. And sometimes, I shake my fists. I find myself caught in both the understanding and misunderstood portion of mental health. At no point could I have been reached if I did not want anyone to reach me. Nor at any point could I have been saved or believed in being saved unless somehow, something changed in my belief system. This above all is the most difficult thing to change; the way we think and the way we believe. Therefore, if we believe this is the best we can be, then so be it. This will always be the best we could ever be.
I have listened to the parents who argued “Not in my backyard” and I have heard from parents that tell me, “None of this would ever happen in my home,” or they say, “Not my kid.” I often remind them that no parent ever stands next to the coffin of their child and says, “I raised him to be exactly like this.”
I’m watching a battle in different communities. I’m seeing things that hurt me at my core. I’m watching kids lose to a thought process and watching parents point fingers to try and find the blame. I wonder what changes would come if we investigated the problem instead of examining who’s at fault.
I stand behind my favorite quote: Depression is a flaw in chemistry, not character.
I stand behind the need to rid shame. I say this because I know this full and well; shame is degrading. I know that shame is an ingredient of mental illness. I also know that shame makes getting well or changing our belief system an impossibility. Fear based and shame based programs do not work but encourage someone, empower them to find and build from their own sense of accountability; and teach them to build and help them find their person-driven direction of change — I swear the results are amazing.