February sees two relatively new milestones in the calendar - a week focusing on mental health awareness in children, and a day where everyone is invited to talk about mental health. Much important work is being done in both of these events, raising awareness of mental health in those individuals who are fortunate enough to feel that issues with mental health don’t directly affect their everyday life.
The thing is, though, “mental health” means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Here are some examples:
A child feeling anxious at school. At home, her parents are beginning the divorce process, and she feels caught in the middle.
A young boy expelled from mainstream school. At his new school, he meets older boys who ask him to hold mobile phones for them. He doesn’t quite know what he’s being asked to do this for, and he’s not quite sure if it’s for entirely good reasons, but it feels exciting to be part of this new group and to receive attention from the older boys.
A woman in her 20s, experiencing hallucinations and voices. They are terrifying, and she doesn’t know where they have come from or when they will go away.
A man in his late 30s, whose father has just died suddenly.
All are important. No individual situation is “better” or “more worthy” of attention or support than another. All have different needs, requiring different thoughts, skills and experience from people there to help.
The thing with well-meaning marks in the calendar such as the two above - and, again, this is not to do down the important work that is being done - is that we run the risk of only engaging with mental health issues that are more palatable to our minds, easier to think about. The difficulty with a lot of mental health work is that everyone in the room has to be able to tolerate and imagine things that have often really happened to our patients, which may feel far away from a therapist’s personal experience - or, sometimes, uncomfortably close.
If you know, love or care for someone who experiences mental health problems, check in with them this week - and the week after, and the week after...
North London Music Therapy works with anyone, of any age, with any mental health condition - however it manifests (whether it’s with another diagnosis, or if there’s no diagnosis at all). If you’re not sure whether you’re the right fit for the service but you’re interested in music therapy and would like some help, get in touch here. We’re always available to talk it through.