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One Giant Leap for Mental Health

How can we support mental-health issues?

Last week in Moms Talk, asked an important question:

Here’s what some of our commenters had to said:

"The Los Gatos Lions Club has an entire committee and morning meeting (Wednesdays 0730-0830, Toll House Hotel) dedicated to reducing bullying and its companions - violence, depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and self-destructive actions. After looking into over a dozen approaches and programs to address bullying, we have partnered with CT English and RJ Fisher Middle Schools urging and financing processes aimed at catching and addressing root causes, first, while supporting the schools' ambitious and well-implemented efforts utilizing the Project Cornerstone asset-based framework and Expect Respect curricula.

"At Fisher, that is resulting in a licensed CASSY therapist on campus 20 hours per week under the same system that Los Gatos High School has successfully implemented over the past two years.

"At CT English, we are supporting a licensed therapist organizing peer counseling groups, small group discussion and parent-student dialogue evenings. We are excited with the increased level of communication and sharing between these schools and LGHS under the leadership of Markus Autrey.

"The efforts that are going to be most successful are those that reduce root causes, but most of all we need to empower our children to NOT become victims. The most dangerous participant in this drama is the victim. Hatred, fear, anger and desire for revenge embody the worst of us.
The answer cannot lie in punishment and “bullying the bully.” Teach our kids to not abuse power, sure. But we MUST teach our kids what to do and how to respond when they are/feel abused. This is what I want to have a discussion on in our town. How do we empower the “victims” before they are victimized?

Absolutely empowering the victims is part of the solution, and also raising general awareness throughout society.

"Bullying isn't only done by children, and doesn't just happen in schools. Bullying happens throughout society, in our homes and workplaces. There are reports of firefighters, doctors, nurses, police, public service employees, military and academic professionals who have been tormented by bullies and some have even committed suicide as a result.

"We live in a bullying culture, yet bullying is a symptom of low emotional intelligence. In a society that over develops cognitive thinking (mental intelligence) and ego-centricity, while under developing self-awareness, empathy and qualities such as caring, compassion, and kindness, bullying is a predictable result. Bullying will end when we stop creating the causes of bullying, and as a society develop our emotional intelligence.

"We cannot expect political leaders to model these qualities when they do not possess them themselves. maybe this should make us think more carefully about who we are voting for. Are we choosing people who lead from aggression, or are we choosing people who are skilled in the ways of peace? http://BullyingCulture.com"

Now onto this week's topic: What stance have you ever taken to support mental health?

Jesse Saperstein, a man who was bullied throughout most of his childhood, is now an autism advocate taking a stand against bullying and speaking up about Aspergers Syndrome. By free falling from an airplane, he has made a name for himself and for those who struggle with similar disorders. His mission was simple, show what can happen when people with challenges have the right opportunities and enough people to believe in their talents. This momentous event has been captured in a  YouTube video, “Free-Falling to End Bullying in 2012,” and can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmLuWBha8Qw.

As a marriage and family therapist, I am always warmed by stories like Jesse’s.  To see individuals who have suffered from mental-health issues, rise above and take back the reigns of their life is truly amazing. However, it is sad to say that stories like Jesse’s childhood are far more familiar than most would want to believe. Statistics have shown that in a typical family of four, one member is likely to have a mental-health condition during their life.

When sharing this with my clients in my practice, I often get a reaction of surprise and even doubt. It has become clear that many people are either not aware of the prevalence of mental-health concerns or are choosing to not acknowledge the truth about mental-health concerns altogether

The questions I am sending out this week are to get you thinking about your role in supporting individuals struggling with mental health issues. 

What stance have you ever taken to support mental health? How might you begin the journey to better understand and support those who struggle with mental-health conditions?

Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz March 22, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Bullies do eventually get their "Pay Back" Day, & it ain't Pretty! I saw so much of it growing up. I couldn't believe how Mean people were! I usually sided with the victim, & was rejected as well. But I was better off, who needs that kind of person in your life? I've learned to Pray & Forgive them instead. There is a reason why a person is that mean. We don't know their home life, & they usually are abused emotionally, physically, & spiritually. Some times sexually sadly enough. So it is in our nature to react in anger. And once that anger grows it can make a Monster out of you. But it's got to STOP! I'm glad to see that this generation is becoming more aware of the damage.
Dyan Chan March 22, 2012 at 05:04 AM
I am glad that we seem to be more aware of mental health and that we have more access to information and resources to take care of our mental health. I also think and hope that the increased awareness has diminished any stigma about seeking help for mental health issues.
Brian Hickman March 23, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Overall awareness doesn't hurt, but I'm not sure it helps much either. I think one of the keys is training those who are neither bullies nor victims... the bystanders. If the bystanders would stop standing by, and would instead band together with the victim to let the bully know his/her actions will not be tolerated, then bullying will diminish. Training the victims on how to stand up is good, but often they don't have the skills to cope effectively in those situations. Teaching an undersized disabled student to stand up to bullies only goes so far. My son has Aspergers, but luckily he's big enough that teasing was relatively rare (at 15 he's 280 lbs. and quite tall). The root cause of bullying is usually the unhappy family life of the bully. The best way to address that is to teach and practice the values that keep families strong.
Jane Darwin March 25, 2012 at 01:06 AM
There is a documentary coming out this week called "Bully" that follows a young boy that is being bullied in school. The pieces I have seen are very powerful in that is shows the difficulty this child and his family face. There are other families that are also shown, one that loses a child to suicide. The parent speaks about being a no body so no body listened. The meanness and acceptance of violence in our society I truly believe contributes to the apparent increase in bulling in our communities. Cyber bulling allows almost "anonymous" attacks that go viral and can never be erased. Maybe movies like "Bully" and projects like Cornerstone will help. But mostly it will be our voices that can make changes.

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