It seems that one of the most prolific results of the Covid pandemic is the unprecedented rise in people suffering from mental health issues. Not surprising given the wildly different and bizarre circumstances many people worldwide found themselves in.
Today, in a world which has been shaken by the pandemic and is still reeling from the aftermath, the recovery process is ongoing. It isn’t just the physical recovery either but the emotional or mental recovery too. There are those individuals whose lives have been forever changed due to Covid having suffered it themselves or been uncomfortably close to someone who has. I can’t even begin to imagine what those people have endured.
However, in the wake of the pandemic, I have also become cynical of those individuals who have cried ‘mental health’ in the anticipation that they too are counted amongst the unfortunate souls who have suffered immeasurable pain when the reality is that they have used the label as a cop-out for not taking on the responsibility for their own situation. (By now, I’m sure I’ve unleashed the anger of some readers).
Whilst I am not one for dismissing the emotional turmoil someone may be suffering, it seems to be all too convenient for a minority of people to jump on the bandwagon and claim ‘mental health’ issues. It provides a useful screen behind which they can hide and avoid facing problems head on. They can dictate when or even if they want to tackle the issue at hand. Meanwhile, these individuals become untouchable – their issues are ones the rest of us cannot possibly understand. And so, any constructive suggestion to help them is met with a rebuttal.
I have been witnessing this phenomenon especially with young people and those close to me and the frustration I feel is real. Not only are any offers of help on my part often declined, the possibility that, despite our age difference, I might even understand a little of what they are feeling, is totally rejected. That’s clearly because I’ve never been young and have always had a life of ease! True, we are all unique individuals and therefore our experiences of life are unique. However, there is always some shared human experiences which we all can relate to between ourselves. As it is though, as an older person, I feel my suggestions are dismissed simply because I could not possibly understand the challenges of this modern world which younger people are having to contend with.
I know the anguish and anxieties young people face today are real – as real as the ones I faced in my youth. However, it does appear that young people today are less equipped with resilience and determination. As was the case when I was young, we did not have the luxury of having someone to talk to about our emotional struggles and simply had to navigate our way through life in a haphazard way. Arguably, that was not an ideal situation and having a label such as ‘mental health issues’ would have been much more beneficial. Yet, not having labels for these types of things also forced us to find solutions for our own problems, rightly or wrongly. Today’s young generation seem to refuse to take matters into their own hands and yet shift the onus onto everyone else where possible. I wonder how they will cope when real tough decisions in life need to be made?
So, whilst being able to identify ‘mental health’ as a priority for wellbeing, my conclusion is that it has also done a huge disservice in that young people use it as a means to escape their own reality. Identifying the problem is only halfway towards finding a solution. But we have a generation now of young people that are more like deciduous plants which succumb to the harsh winter rather than the evergreen conifers that stand firm and strong.
I know I run the risk of incurring the wrath of many young people who might be reading this. I’m prepared for that. However, I stand by my views. A life of smooth sailing will never create fighters and go-getters. Challenges in life encourage creative minds, deep thought and a search for solutions. Challenges were never meant to create a generation of weak-minded whiners. It’s normal to be in a state of initial shock followed by inertia. But being stuck there is unacceptable. Help should be sought where available but the initial step must be taken by the individual concerned. I understand life is all very complicated but I also believe being in denial about how much one can positively change their own lives is a huge factor too.
If, when throwing out the lifebuoy ring, a drowning person refuses to grab hold of it, then nobody except that person can be held responsible for the predictable consequences. This is the scene I am seeing being played out time and again. I’ve now learnt to hold onto the lifebuoy ring for myself when my own emotional health is being unfairly encroached upon. Self-preservation is now my goal.