May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Here it is the 6th and I just found out 2 days ago! What should I make of my lack of awareness of this special month?
It almost seems silly to me since my whole professional life has been dedicated to mental health or mental wellness as I prefer to call it. This field has always been controversial and/or divisive. Just about everyone has an opinion about what it is and what it should be. And discussions about treatment get even more controversial, is it nature or nurture?
Having an opinion is great but the amount of emotion behind everyone’s opinion seems unparalleled (except for politics and religion) to opinions about other subjects.
Mental wellness, to me, is a quintessential part of being human. Feelings, emotions, and meanings we assign practically define us. (I wouldn’t be surprised if animals – non-human – had some similar experiences.) Mental illnesses such as Depression, Manic Depression and Schizophrenia have been described throughout history. How can anyone not be ‘aware’ of it.
It is my experience many people would prefer to ignore the whole topic. And they get pretty adamant about ignoring it. Like most things we would rather not think about it may come from a lack of understanding and a fear of learning about it. I prefer not to watch golf on tv (when it was on tv). I think it is one of the most boring, dull sports to watch. In contrast, I can really appreciate baseball. Many sports enthusiasts I know view baseball as dull, slow and boring.
Growing up in Cincinnati during the 1970’s I was exposed to The Big Red Machine. The city newspaper gave 3 pairs of tickets to kids on the honor roll. Opening Day was an excused absence from the public school I went to! My parents loved baseball and shared their passion with me and my brother and sister. Although I am not a big sports enthusiast currently, I can still enjoy and appreciate a baseball game. I understand it, the game, the strategy and sharing my parents’ interest.
Golf of the other hand I did not have a similar experience. I don’t understand golf at all, its strategy or how many different clubs or irons there are and what they do. It seems a bit ridiculous to me.
So mental wellness. Looking back, while growing up I did not understand feelings, emotions and meanings about things. As I became a young adult I realized I needed to. Ultimately, I chose a profession in which I could learn about it, understand it and not to be frightened by it. I feel privileged to have worked with so many people focused on their mental wellbeing.
I definitely would like to ignore the fact there are far too many people who do not choose to try to understand mental wellness. It is my hope that Mental Health Awareness Month will help people to begin to understand their feelings and emotions and those of others.
Dr. Laurie Goldman is a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and functional medicine practitioner who’s been in private practice since 1999. She founded Clear Path Wellness to help her patients reach their maximum state of mental and physical health using a personalized, comprehensive approach powered by the principles of functional medicine, which treats the whole person, not just symptoms.