Have you seen all the “Let’s Talk” ads. They have come every year for the last several turns around the sun. They may provoke an “Oh yes, it is that time of year again.” response. But awareness of mental health has never been more important than now. Isolation from true human contact and burrowing deeper into virtual ‘relationships’ with only those who share our opinions, biases, and point of view, leads to ill health. It features an exaggerated sense of grievance. We feed off the gripes of the like minded and our temperatures rise beyond what is healthy or helpful.
A deceptive type of paranoia is loose in the land! Of course, the difficulty is that one of the first signs of such deception is that we are not aware of it! Such deception can hardly be battled with argument. This ‘crossing of swords’ exacerbates and heightens the temperature. It too often entrenches each ‘side’ all the further.
I dare suggest a different tack. I suggest that St. Francis might have been right and that it is better to “understand than be understood”. Such understanding requires less reaction and more listening.
I think a mirror might be a helpful image and that as we carefully listen and gently reflect back what we hear that we all might make progress. Too often people driven by grievance slip into extremism. If we sought to gently reflect how these actions or words look and land, asking if this is what they really intend, then we invite human interaction rather than de-personalized grievance.
This necessitates me refusing to join in either sharing or refuting and places me in the steps of Francis and of Jesus. Good sandals to stand in!
Each day we are confronted with the difficulty people with mental health issues face during the fear and isolation of covid. Our friend J. has had to be institutionalized because of her adverse reactions during this time. Because of isolation her communication has been reduced to texting friends. Texting is a poor means of communicating at the best and this mentally ill woman has managed to hurt and alienate many furthering her isolation. Every day she is contact with me sharing her hurts and always asking me what she can pray for.
V. lives in terrible anxiety and in isolation too often listens to these voices of worry and despair. She finds hope in reading her precious book of Psalms. She may go weeks without human contact.
B. lives in a care home which is rightfully extremely strict about its covid protocols. She is often locked down with other mentally ill residents and they “drive each other nuts!”
The healthiest of us battle with this isolation seeking healthy ways to connect. Let us not just talk but let us act justly. Let us not air grievance raising the temperature but be cooling agents. This is the 2021 way to be preserving salt in the world.