Sierra Nevada As A Witness: 


On the lookout point called Mirador de San Nicolás, I stood on the side waiting for someone to click a picture of our family. Our backdrop would be the Alhambra (one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture located in the Andalusian province of Spain) and the magnificent Sierra Nevada mountains behind. We had just arrived to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets in Spain, in a city called Granada.

As I saw scores of people take selfies or request others to take pictures of them, I was eagerly waiting our turn for a good spot to sit and pose. As it turns out the best way to secure a sure shot chance of getting someone’s help is through reciprocity. I spotted a couple trying different poses with selfies and then looking around to see if someone would be able to help take a picture of theirs. I walked up to the guy and offered to do that. I gently grabbed his phone from his hand that he had outstretched.

There, it was impossible to miss. There were freshly cut blade wounds on his arms and hands. Some deeper and longer than the others. Some leaving a permanent disfigurement of his skin – tiny pink long bumps that showed those old healed cuts.

I had to try hard to stop everything and hug him, tell him, you matter. But, he was a stranger, I didn’t know the language, and most importantly – people involve in self harm not because they want to get noticed.

I simply took many pictures of the couple and handed them my phone laughingly to indicate its their turn to return the favor. The young man took many pictures of us, tilting my phone at 45 degrees angle everytime he took one. It was amusing, but I didn’t say a word, my husband’s body language suggested he was about to protest, but I softly mouthed, its ok – indicating he might know what he was doing, after all kids these take better pictures than us older folks.

The point is, the experience made me realize, even in the most breathtaking place in the world like Granada – the muse of one of my hero poets Federico García Lorca, there was pain. There were young folks who were in these charmed settings of cobbled streets, and tapas bars who were struggling like so many of us.



The Screening Of Hiding In Plain Sight:


I had the great opportunity of attending a community screening of the documentary, Hiding In Plain Sight, about youth mental illness.

For all of us who are deeply invested in the mental wellbeing of our loved ones, this is a must watch. This documentary shows us life of those hit hard by addiction, psychosis, and acute loneliness.

It really pushes us to understand that mental health doesn’t discriminate between rural, urban populations, and doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor. Mental illness can be anywhere – at homes, schools and even at work places. Mental illness can be chronic or an overwhelming feeling of being stuck that comes and goes.

Children ages 11 to adults ages 40 describe to us how they’re called nuts, crazy and these labels contribute to perpetuating the stigma around mental health. Professionals call it illness, challenge or disorder. Whatever it is called, mental health has been a part of the human condition as long we’ve existed. At this moment, there are hundreds of diagnoses available in a counselor’s or a psychiatrists database.

The onset of 75% of chronic mental health disorders occurs by the mid-20s (Kessler et al., 2007) And 50% of those before they turn 14. Because it is a deeply personal experience, lot of people don’t understand that they can still seek help for their own unique condition.

No matter where you are, intervention can help you sort it out. The most difficult step is to start talking about it. Once you do, you realise that there are people all around you who can help you get back on track. Morgan, 26, says she wants to talk about it because she might be able to help others see that its ok to live with a mental health diagnosis. This thing that ancient philosophers had called the “inner darkness”.

Around 3rd grade, one of the kids describes it as experiencing sad feelings. Is it our nature, that its in our genes or is it our nurture, that our environment led us down this path. This is not an either or situation. There are many reasons why mental health can get affected. There are many triggers, like early childhood trauma, pandemics, natural disasters, racial injustice, random acts of violence. The list goes on.



Struggling To Find Words, Literally:


When children experience trauma, they begin to change. Because they don’t have words to express their feelings, or understand what is happening to them, they begin to feel as a burden to themselves and others. Imagine children thinking that their family is better off without them.

Sometimes this ambiguity is also because of cultural baggage. One of the girls of Thai descent says her family never talked about feelings or emotions. So she simply didn’t know what was wrong with her or how to express herself.

When a dad becomes an addict, the family parts ways. And when divorces happen, kids start blaming themselves for their family’s situation. “It broke my heart. It was my fault that now my step dad and mom are constantly fighting.” When they were busy fighting, she could not “open up about what she wanted.”

When a dad is incarcerated often, the child ends up with what she considers is a ugly life. One of the dads is acused and acquitted repeatedly of multiple sexual assualts. As a result the children are placed in foster care and eventually the mother gets custody. One of the fathers is diagnosed with glioblastoma and the child’s life is never the same again.

One of the dad is so angry, that the child had to rethink every single thing they did around the house. He simply lived in the fear of “upsetting his father for the smallest reasons.”

The point is most parents are trying to pay attention, be good care providers and do their best. But kids observe and see what is happening around them.

When a girl puts one of her Easter marshmallow peeps in a sauce for fun at the kitchen table, the mother goes ballistic. And the child wonders what’s wrong with herself.




“The future will be decided in a thousand American urban neighborhoods and suburban conference centers and small-town church basements and library meeting rooms and rural kitchens… The future of mental health reform will depend upon whether enough people gather in enough of such venues as these to contemplate work of Dorothea Dix by joining to reject and extinguish our modern Bedlams, and replace these Bedlams with a reborn and more sophisticated and more enduring program of moral care. It will depend upon whether enough people will take notice of and be inspired by the rediscovery made by sociologists and psychiatrists: that kindness, companionship, and intimate care are demonstrable counterforces to deepening psychosis. Not cures, but counterforces, particularly when practiced in concert with psychotropic regimens that fit the specific nature of a person’s affliction as well as that person’s specific biosystem.”
~ Ron Powers, No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America



Part II: 


To be continued HERE.


* * *


For Your Spiritual, Mental And Psychological Wellness


Here Are Free Resources For Children, Teens, Adults And Parents

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