Mental Health 101

So many people talk about “mental health” nowadays… but the simple truth is that dealing with the illness side of mental health can be extremely challenging.

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Therapists and clinicians, doctors and nurses, psychologists and counsellors, also deal with mental health and illness in their personal lives. I remember as a young Counsellor in training one of the first times a senior Minister visited my practice. It surprised me to realise how everyone carries challenges, sometimes hidden, other times not as well concealed.

Ministers, priests, doctors, psychologists, disability support workers, managers, and all sorts of helpers over the years have sat down with me. They have shared stories of deeply personal battles through depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, relationship break ups, workplace stress, and conflicts that deeply impacted their lives.

Interesting enough, the vast majority of helpers we’ve seen over the years have carried what I have come to recognise as a deep seated fatigue, something kin to existential depression, often appearing like a pragmatic and even realistic loss of hope and wonder in the mystery of life. This strikes me as quite powerful, and endemic to our era that is so focused on logic, critical theory, analysis, and science. While focusing on evidence and measuring everything in life, even our emotions, we have lost a sense of childlike innocence in just exploring, and staying curious about life.

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Within the journey of psychotherapy and counselling, helpers are seriously among the hardest people to help. We helpers throw up every self-defence mechanism known to humanity. Being well trained in communication, we can spin circles around any sentence and interpret about a dozen different meanings in half a minute flat. As the words cascade from a helper’s lips, they are often immediately internally sabotaging their heart and body by avoiding, superimposing, dissociating, and confusing meanings.

Yet working with helpers has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. For over two decades my focus was training therapists, and mentoring counsellors. The most valuable lessons included the fact that we are all so very human.

We cannot go it alone. In fact, everyone needs someone else to help them sort the harder parts of life. And as older and wider as you get, this fact never changes.

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