This month we are highlighting our value of inclusion through the lens of mental health. Mental health issues are difficult to spot from the outside and even more difficult from the inside. The issues that are frequently diagnosed are the normal condition for the person who has the experience. I have more than once, heard people tell me they don’t want to take their meds because they don’t feel right. It doesn’t feel normal. I have to point out that their normal is the situation the meds are trying to alleviate. A roller coaster is fun but we are not supposed to be in the constant state of up and down. Maybe we are and it is the rest of us that have an issue. That is something to contemplate.
I reflected on the topic from the lens of inclusion and realize how difficult to practice this can be. It is not easy to spot a person who is experiencing a mental health issue. Some are long-term while others are temporary but no less of a challenge. Yet, all of them are hidden from our sight and not easy to spot and this becomes a problem because that which cannot be seen is often feared, ignored, misunderstood, or worse still face covert and overt discrimination. I know because I have faced this problem from a slightly different experience.
I have spent most of the last 27 years with a variety of hidden disabilities. When I experienced my heart issues I would not have been able to walk the stairs to the sanctuary with stopping to catch my breath. Yet, to look at me you would never know there was a problem. Frequently, I received comments that would attempt to put me in my place for daring to use the handicap seat on a bus or simply taking the extra time things took to get things accomplished. I was even fired from a job for my inability to keep up and match expectations. We would never think of doing this to a person with a visible condition.
People with a mental health issue face the same scrutiny and scorn every day. Their condition is unseen and unknown. The issues they face may limit their abilities or their participation in some way or simply have them participate in a unique way. Compassion, empathy, and a true understanding of inclusion would have us stop and seek to understand the situation first before the condemnation and judgment. Plato is reported to have said “be kind everyone is fighting a battle.” Mental health issues often come on slowly and are unknown and unseen even to the person who is experiencing the issue. Let us practice the value of inclusion and compassion not just in our community and in the world. The world is hurting and needs our compassionate and inclusive energy as we model the behaviors we want to see in the world.