It’s National Mental Health Awareness Month again. It has been quite some time since 2019, when I wrote my blog entry, “Poetry and Personal Wellness” for the CavanKerry website. With everything that has happened since then, it was truly another lifetime ago.
Now, over two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living in a prolonged season of loss. This month, we passed the 1 million death threshold, the toll of which will continue to resonate in startling, unforeseeable ways for ages to come. Combine that with a decade of ever-increasingly polarized social and political discourse, and it’s plain that we are experiencing a collective trauma on our psyches, the scope of which hasn’t been experienced for generations. Amidst the ongoing efforts to attend to afflictions of the body and immune system, a woefully insufficient amount of attention and resources is being directed toward Mental Health resources and support. More than ever, a season of kindness and compassion is critically important.
Grief and trauma manifest in a myriad of ways and the experience varies from person to person. Some will turn to anger and try to pass on their pain to anyone who views the world differently from them. Others will struggle to make sense of the whole ordeal and lose their bearings on themselves, their loved ones, and their place in the world. Some will deny the reality of a situation even as it continues to engulf and destroy those around them.
Some will take all that anger, pain, and confusion inward.
It is a heavy, heavy weight that burrows deep to the core. Many of us have sunk deeper and deeper into panic, distress, and/or depression in the past few years, and far too many have not lived to see the other side of it. I’ve personally lost multiple people to suicide and known and cared for others who were brought to the brink. I know there are countless people out there who can say the same.
In a society which continues to stigmatize and underacknowledge mental health issues, it is crucial to know that none of us are alone – not in our terror, not in our pain. Everyone deserves to be able to speak as openly about these inner, invisible worlds and wounds as they would a cut or a broken arm, and those who dare to share their experiences with depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges should be commended, not condemned. Here are a few resources for you or anyone you know who is in pain and might need them:
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264
Mental Health America
“Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness and remains far behind yours. Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words.”
Those words from Rainer Maria Rilke, in his collection, Letters to a Young Poet, have stuck with and guided me for the last 15 years since I first read them. Understand that too many of us suffer in silence. Then, make the choice to dedicate some of your time to show those you love that you care for them, that you will listen to them genuinely and without judgment, and that you are willing to sit with them in their pain. The alternative has too great a cost.
Be kind and be well,
~Gabriel Cleveland, Managing Editor