Speaking Mental Health
Forward Times Mental Health Advisors
“Knowledge is power,” is a statement we are all familiar with. Even those who have not heard this saying before, which is likely a small number of people, still understand this concept. Babies, fresh out of the womb quickly learn how to utilize the best resource at their disposal, crying, to get their needs met. The concept of manipulating the tools that one has available in a way to satisfy one’s internal cravings is at the core of the idea that “knowledge is power.” Essentially, the more you are able to identify the resources you have available and how to wield them to achieve a desired outcome, the more powerful one can become. Though this is common knowledge, not everyone chooses to operate with this idea in mind. Some, in fact, operate at the opposite end of the awareness spectrum and commit to the idea that what one does not know cannot hurt them. For many of these subscribers, even if they do not believe that “ignorance is bliss,” they act in such a manner as to imply that what they choose not to accept cannot be used against them. The idea, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you,” unfortunately, is a mistruth; what you are unaware of can not only hurt you, but it can also devastate you and even negatively impact those around you.
In a world where avoiding and ignoring problems makes those problems disappear, choosing to believe that “what you don’t know can’t hurt you,” makes complete sense. In reality however, it is not turning a blind eye to issues that makes those issues disappear; it is identifying and working through the issues that effectively resolves them. Yes, avoidance is a strategy that is widely used by people to respond to problems. The main drawback with relying on avoidance is that it works, until it does not. Dodging issues may work in the moment, but it is not a viable long-term solution. When it comes to one’s mental health, failing to give attention to warning signs, symptoms and triggers is an ineffective strategy, which can result in a domino effect that adversely affects one’s overall wellbeing.
Because of the stigma associated with mental health, many people choose to go with the school of thought, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you,” and ignore evidence of problems that exist. A person who does not know the signs of depression minimizes his symptoms to just being tired and needing rest; being tired and needing rest fails to acknowledge his extreme fatigue, his lack of motivation, his social withdrawal, etc., which are all symptoms of clinical depression. Most people can relate to being tired and needing rest; not much judgement there. When one acknowledges experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health diagnoses however, that person then has to be intentional in choosing to either address those issues or not. Contrary to popular belief, choosing to not accept the presence of mental health problems does not make one exempt from the ramifications of unaddressed mental health issues; rather, it makes them more susceptible to them.
Knowing better is not equivalent to “doing better” as many people like to say. A better mindset to have however is if I can identify what the problem is and the associated symptoms, I can learn and take the necessary steps to address it. Knowledge may be power; it is the effective implementation of that knowledge that will make the difference. Your mental health is extremely important; don’t ignore, explore it.
Michael Dangerfield, LPC, NCC