Supporting Yourself and Each Other
A mental health journey
Supporting Yourself and Each Other
It feels dark outside, but it’s dark inside, too. A loneliness envelopes me. A desire to stay tucked tightly into bed consumes me. A desperation for human contact and yet a simultaneous need to be alone is an ongoing battle in my mind. I’m useless, inadequate, unable to do even the most basic of tasks.
These feelings are ones that accompany me when I’m in a bout of depression. I, like many, suffer from depression and anxiety. I didn’t used to talk about it, but I’m getting better at being honest and open about my experiences. I am getting better at this because I think it is important to do so. I am getting better at this because so many suffer in silence and I believe we should make space to talk about it. Maybe it will help someone, maybe it will save a life.
I think many of us have been paying more attention to mental health since the beginning of the pandemic. We were sort of forced to be alone with ourselves at times and that can bring about a lot of reflection and self-realization. It also provided a unique opportunity to really be able to measure the impacts certain activities can have on us.
At Rocky Mountain Adaptive, we saw an uptick in users wanting to access the outdoors. For them, riding down a mountain on a sit ski or dipping a paddle into a glacier-fed lake was what they needed for their own mental health. We know maybe now more than ever how powerful an outdoor experience can be both mentally and physically. We know that the power of a community can be almost magical in its ability to give people a sense of belonging.
So, knowing that many individuals I encounter on a day-to-day basis are on their own mental health journey, coupled with the fact that it is also National Depression and Mental Health Screening month, I wanted to share a few notes on how we can show support to both ourselves and to someone struggling with mental health.
Firstly, I just want to note that mental health and mental illness are not the same things, though we often do see them used interchangeably. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH), mental health is a concept similar to physical health.
“It refers to a state of well-being. Mental health includes our emotions, feelings of connection to others, our thoughts and feelings, and being able to manage life’s highs and lows,” it says on the CAMH website.
“The presence or absence of a mental illness is not a predictor of mental health; someone without a mental illness could still have poor mental health, just as a person with a mental illness could have excellent mental health.”
This is an important distinction to make, perhaps, for those that are still impacted by stigma’s surrounding mental illness and/or health. Everyone has mental health.
So, how do we manage it and how do we support each other? I’ve taken some time to compile a few different suggestions on how you can support someone, and yourself, when it comes to the most complex organ human beings have – the brain.
Check ins: If you or someone you know are struggling mentally, or live with a mental illness, arrange to check in on one another. That can look like a phone call, a text, or a visit, whatever works best for you. It is perhaps the most important to make sure you set aside time for this and limit any distractions.
Sharing and, more importantly, listening: Let the individual share whatever they would like too about their current state of mind. Applying pressure in situations like this often has the opposite effect. Don’t ask someone to share if you aren’t willing to listen, and to listen without judgement. Providing a safe space means more than just the physical space. People want to feel heard, want their feelings to be held by someone who cares for them. Take time to think about your own words and be careful not to be dismissive.
Get Outside: this isn’t always an easy one when you’re in the thick of it, but I promise when you do it, it’ll help, even if only a little. Go for a walk, a ride, call a friend to hit a hike in K-Country. And vice versa, if you see someone struggling, ask them to join you on an outdoor adventure. So much research has been done now that shows how positive the impacts of getting outside are on our mental health. At Rocky Mountain Adaptive, we have tons of awesome options to get you outside, too.
Do Research and Ask Questions: spend time doing your own research. Everyone’s mental health journey looks different. Invest in yourself and your own wellbeing by figuring out what works best for you. Be open about this, too, with your support system so that others know how to best be there for you. If you’re the support system for someone else, ask them questions. “How can I best support you right now?” Make sure you listen, too.
Those are just a few suggestions on how you can help yourself or someone you love who’s struggling with mental health. A friendly reminder to be kind, to take time for yourself, too, and to know your own limits.
We are complex beings, I know, but a little bit of kindness and understanding can go a long way in making things a little bit less complex.
Oh, and, you matter. Never forget it!