I’ve experienced back pain on and off for the last 20 years. Sometimes it’s unbearable, most the time I’m conscious of it and occasionally I forget that I am prone to back pain.
This last week it has been very painful and even though it’s not that obvious to look at me, when you see me walk or try to pick something up it’s very apparent.
Some people live with chronic physical pain the like that I can’t imagine. That might be migraines, stomach issues, hearing or eyesight problems, chronic fatigue, arthritis – lots and lots of conditions that can debilitate and make life very difficult.
What of the pain we can’t see? What of the emotionally or mental pain that people might be carrying or hiding?
I’ve just finished a mornings Mental Health Awareness training for a Secondary School in Birmingham and it was such a great time of discussion. The pressure and expectations put on young people now is incredible. Not just the students of course, the staff are overwhelmed with the needs and the responsibilities of educating young people who have so many barriers to their learning.
Many of those barriers for young people are around their mental health. Their ability to manage their stress and anxiety, which we would call resilience, can be very minimal. I have seen this first hand with my teenage children who struggle to navigate the scary waters of young adulthood. That messy in-between stage of not a child any more but not quite an adult – a very turbulent time for most teenagers.
I think often our fears around supporting young people with their mental health is feeling unskilled and worrying that we might make things worse. There are some cases of course where professional medical intervention is required, but most of the time the pain that’s hidden can be soothed through relationship. We cannot necessary fix or cure a child, but we can walk alongside them as they travel the lonely road to positive mental health. Research has shown that a young people would much rather talk to a trusted adult like a teacher or youth worker than a mental health professional (in the first instance).
I’m not down playing the need for professional intervention. All my children have experienced therapy and it has helped them greatly on their journey. However, I am advocating talking to children and young people about their mental health and coming alongside them on that process towards healing.
I know this is a topic I’ve talked about often, I don’t apologise for that, I believe that if we as a society could pay more attention to the hidden needs of others around us there might be less strain on our services and as a result more rounded healthier people in general.
So, on your travels today – what do you see in others? Some may be in physical pain, some emotional and others mental pain. See if your noticing and reaching out could actually make a difference in that persons life.
Yesterday someone sent me flowers totally out of the blue and it absolutely made my day. What she didn’t know was later that day I received bad health news about my Mum and that act of kindness helped when I returned home to see those beautiful flowers on our table.