Andrew Coop

mental health as luxury

“I don’t believe in Therapy”

This was a common saying I heard from my father as a child. It’s safe to say that my father was suffering from mental issues himself, which he refused to work on. I slowly began to realize that his resistance allowed for a toxic environment to manifest growing up. I myself had my fair share of experience with therapists, being mostly raised by my mother. Although I’ve had my initial feelings towards therapy curated by my father’s ignorant statements, I slowly began to realize how beneficial these sessions were in dealing with the trauma I’ve experienced.


Introduction

Being able to safely and effectively process emotions can truly be a luxury for some people. Caring about mental health may not be an option for an individual who is constantly fighting just to survive. This individual might not have the energy, the resources, the time, or the motivation to dive deep into her psyche, to listen intently and quietly, and find the points of her mind that she may need to heal.

Not all doors of opportunity are open to everyone. For instance, education access in North Korea is quite limited compared to countries like Switzerland. We can also examine parallel differences in children schooling domestically. Below is a comparison of common living situations for school-aged children within the United States.

Joshua Hoehne


Public School Child:

  • May live in an area with high crime rate
  • Walks to school, most likely takes public transportation, which can be dangerous for younger children (gangs, kidnapping, robbery)
  • Schools are overcrowded. Classrooms are flooded with 40+ children
  • Lack of funding within the school and neighborhood.
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of faculty
  • Lack of extracurricular activities

Private School Child:

  • Lives in an area with low crime rate
  • Has a parent to drive them to school safely.
  • Schools are smaller, allowing for more direct contact between student and teacher
  • Schools are funded by surrounding local organizations
  • New equipment
  • Thriving fundraisers
  • Plenty of extracurricular activities

Perfect human beings don’t exist, as there isn’t a single person who hasn’t faced some type of trauma growing up. When observing these vastly different living situations, one can conclude that a public-school child is faced with more stressors that interfere with self-growth. Everyone should have an equal opportunity regardless of their living situation.


Why Mental Health is Ignored

Discussions about mental health continues to gain popularity amongst the masses. As we continue to grow as a society, our understanding of the bridge between well-being and prolonged life is becoming clear through our continued research. As fascinating these findings are, however, it’s easy for mental health to fly under one’s radar.

One may not be always be aware that they’re suffering from a mental illness. Lack of awareness can be due to the infinite number of obligations one might have, or just being outright busy with life’s obstacles. However, not taking time to evaluate your mental health can lead to serious consequences, such as heightening the effects of illnesses over time. Today, there are a plethora of resources available to the public, and we’re continuing to discover innovative techniques to further our understanding of mental health. Yet we still struggle to bring these issues to light within certain communities.

The reasons certain communities resist mental health knowledge range from a. schools not having adequate resources, b. the systematic suppression of information, and c. the stigma associated with mental health concerns.

Research shows that people who identify as African American are twenty percent more likely to suffer with mental health issues. These problems range from major depressive disorder to anxiety disorder. Within specific communities throughout the United States, we also see a major crisis with underfunding. South-Central Los Angeles, Flint, Michigan, and Southside Chicago are some of the most affected. Although there are plenty of stressors that exist within these communities, not having information on how to cope reinforces a destructive snowball effect. However, practices such as Therapeutic Leisure can reverse these negative effects. 


Therapeutic Leisure

One must remember that acknowledgement of the problem is the first step for healing. There are plenty of mechanisms one could use to become a more well-rounded being. These methods may include therapy, meditation, or eating healthy. Even though these methods are beginning to be taken into consideration by the masses, Therapeutic Leisure has yet to reach notoriety.

Philosopher Josef Pieper is one of the many innovators who has dedicated his time into extensive research on well-being, and shares his findings to help those who can’t afford help for their mental health challenges. Pieper believed that Therapeutic Leisure can help minimize anxiety and other commonly faced issues in these communities.

Pickled Stardust

Pieper defines Therapeutic Leisure as, “The purposeful and careful facilitation of quality leisure experiences and the development of personal and environmental strengths, which lead to greater well-being for people who, due to illness, disability, or other life circumstances, need individualized assistance to achieve their goals”.

I believe this will be beneficial for the under privileged because it allows the individual to step away from their surroundings and focus on the self. I also find these practices to be beneficial because it allows participants to experience quality leisure activities. Though the outcomes of these practices can help change one’s life, it’s far from an easy process. It can be difficult to convince someone to step outside of their comfort zone, or to make them want the assistance.

Again, although these practices aren’t necessarily difficult, there are many who will struggle to motivate themselves to engage in them. Writer Maria states, “To begin, when an attempt is made to be at leisure, there are many distractions which prohibit its practice. Some of these include the constant stimulation with technology to which we subject ourselves. Because of this, we are often out of touch with reality, and not experiencing the joys which creation brings.” I believe this quote to be profound, as it denounces what most would consider a luxury. If we were to view items such as cellphones as a distraction, it allows us to want to take better care of ourselves. We begin to see all forms of health as essential.


Conclusion

Covid 19 has contributed to the rise of mental related issues throughout the globe. As of 2019, 51.1 million people suffer from some form of mental illness, a sinister statistic that translates to 1 in 4 adults. Ignoring mental health has the potential to create a downward spiral amongst individuals globally. There are an extensive number of factors that can contribute to one not only ignoring mental health, but also being oblivious of their own disabilities as mentioned prior. Some of these factors include one’s surrounding environment, not having access to information, not feeling that they are suffering, not feeling mental health should be taken seriously, or not being able to afford assistance.

This may be the case for you or someone you love, and it is up to us as a society to share common practices of mental health with each other. Continuing to share that helpful information is indeed out there could potentially save someone’s life. Instead of viewing mental health as a luxury, let us take the steps to secure it as an essential part of everyone’s well-being.

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