Observations by a Mental Health Professional in the Community

So much of the life coach and psychotherapist experience is about confidentiality and what we observe gets held in our hearts and kept there for safety. But some experiences I'm sure you have all had. It's just that some of us (who have dedicated our lives to the human condition) see and hear things on an additional level and get impacted in sometimes unusual ways. You can probably relate!

In this month's saga of "Being a mental health professional out in the community"....

I've experienced two moments to share. One at the hair salon and one at the doctor's office. Simple every day moments. Places most of us experience.

To the hair dresser and her client near me who was getting her hair cut...

I could hug you both! The client - who appeared to be in her early 20's - shared a brave moment expressing anxiety that limits her ability to enjoy life and make certain decisions. Even decisions like getting her hair cut.

The hair dresser - who appeared in her late 20's - responded with, "Well sure. I know how that goes."

And they proceeded to share conversation about anxiety, mental health, self care, life choices and every day moments.

So here I am...holding back all the emotions of pride that I feel for two young women I know nothing about.

Many of us in the field dedicate our life to normalizing the human condition and finding ways to develop community for everyone...with a simple vision to make topics ok to discuss and share and learn from. So here today, I witnessed it roll off their tongues no different than if they were talking about any topic.

To those of you that do it every day, this moment is "no big deal". To those of us that know that (depending on when you were born or where you were born or other factors) those conversations would have never taken place and surely not in public and surely not without heavy weight.

There was no weight. There was just conversation between two self aware people who could hold space for many different realities and perspectives.

Those simple moments of witnessing mental health - that I know from my work not to take for granted - are gold.

Second scene:

On another note, I experienced a conversation with a medical professional who was conducting a routine medical intake before my physical exam (yes clinicians...walk the walk of self care).

She did her job by asking the questions the computer told her to ask but a great moment was missed. One of those questions was "I'm sorry I have to ask. I have to ask everyone. Do you have depression." 

That was the only mental health question or symptom question on the subject asked by the form on the computer.

Here's my issue with this and the information I shared:

While I greatly appreciate that routine medical procedures are now a place to address certain whole-person well-being issues, this was not the way to go about doing it in my opinion. 

First of all, there should be more training provided to normalize all mental health questions. There is no shame in asking these questions unless you feel the shame when you ask it. If you are comfortable asking about bowel movements then, as part of routine health, you can ask...

1. Are you eating more or less than usual?

2. Are you sleeping more or less than usual?

3. Do you find yourself crying more or being more irritable than usual?

Etc, etc.

Most of us don't know what depression or any mental health disorder is...much less what symptoms to look out for. Ask about the symptoms in lay person/regular person/non-professional terms that we can all answer. And while you're at it, check for other safety issues like domestic violence. Hand out resources to read on our own time even if we are not comfortable discussing with you right then and there.

The more aware we become of the golden opportunities, the more we can grab them and make the most of them for everyone's sake.

Humans are complex. And most of us try really hard every day. I walk through life observing and learning. And adjusting my practice to realities of real life interactions like these.

Gratitude to everyone that tries.