THe mental health oak tree

In Kenya, the oak tree is sacred. If it is harmed by humans then a curse is placed on the person who cuts part of it or uses it for cooking or heating. The consequence for this action will impact family members mental health. The oak tree must fall by itself.

From sacred to mad. If you do cut or use part of the oak tree, there is a torment for your sins resulting in going ‘mad’.

In the Phillipines, on Capiz island, there is a mythological creature as a devil playing with the person who is crazy. This creature is unique to the people of the island and is the answer to why mental illness occurs.

From mad to stigma. In Australia, one of the most frequent comments about mental health from those with a lived experience is that stigma in the community surrounds the conditions. And it does.

There are numerous pockets of our land that do not have their needs met because of stigma. My fear is we promptly finish the discussion because it becomes too hard.

In my last blog, I shared that we have post graduate students from varying communities exploring mental health together. We agree that stigma is different in each part of the world and impacts people experiencing mental ill health challenges, from socialisation to education to employment to daily functioning and support.

From stigma to education. This week, we have been exploring the concept of stigma and discrimination through our own bias, prejudice and stereotype about mental ill health and the journey of lived experience. We explored looking inward first and through the lens of people with mental health conditions before we can start to understand our own community views.  Education is power to take the path for community inclusion and wellbeing.

Although, this wasn’t necessarily true from the viewpoint of some folk in Columbia….

If you study a lot it is said that you become crazy as you don’t know what to do with all that knowledge.

Now that is an interesting one for all you academic boffins out there!

From education to support. In Malaysia, you go to the idols and figurines spirits for help as your first option in the hope that recovery will occur when you grow older.

The equivalent in Australia being identifying early signs and seeking early support.

Not too long ago, a woman I know asked if I could speak with her one on one about mental health. I said I was very happy to chat more, but could she give me more information. It turns out she has identified that there are behaviours she is experiencing that are out of character. Not being able to sleep, over worrying, tearful and withdrawing from socialisation being some of the signs.

I encouraged her to see a counsellor as I am a listening ear, but I am not qualified to provide support and strategies. Whilst dubious at first, she agreed to visiting a counsellor if I can attend the first session until she feels safe and can build trust.

Taking that first step helps to move from the fear of crazy to realising the importance of wellbeing.

Our mental health is sacred. We can overcome stigma by sharing our experiences and finding that someone to listen and help get early support. It gives us the freedom to take in the beauty of the oak tree without fear of judgement or consequences.