Welcome to Different Health

On the 10th of October, I was making some lovely coffee to kick start my day, when I heard on the Today BBC Radio 4 news that Theresa May, (British prime minister) appointed what is thought to be the world’s first minister for suicide prevention. The move, aims to tackle the tragedy of 4,500 people taking their own lives in England each year. 

The news came on World Mental Health Day, which is observed on the 10th of October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness about mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health. 

Wow! What an amazing news and how long overdue! How many of us have been affected by mental health issues or have lost a loved one or a friend who found too difficult to cope with this silent killer called mental health illness. 

The World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. Let’s hope this nomination will provide the opportunity for everyone including myself to become more engaged with the problem and to look for ways to actively do more to help!

Part of this process involves hearing others talking more openly about their emotional struggles and to feel OK about expressing our concerns, sorrows and bewilderment regarding such a taboo subject. Somehow, it provides more understanding and acceptance for many like me, who don’t suffer from mental health issues and, possibly for this reason, could not appreciate in the past, the depth of mental torment felt by loved ones who attempted to stop their suffering by putting an end to their lives. 

The topic is really vast and complex, with many important interpretations and considerations, such as the comment by the Mental Health Foundation UK, stating in their site that suicide and self-harm are not mental health problems themselves, but rather linked to mental distress. (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-suicide). 

Perhaps they are right about naming it a mental distress! It must be terrifying to believe that there is no way out, no helping hand until reaching the decision that the only way to solve the problem is to end one’s life. 

When this is the outcome, relatives, partners and friends are commonly left behind, often traumatised while trying to make sense of their tragic loss, with all the why’s and if’s and whatever else they could have done to prevent it. 

According to the article written by Wylie Tene and Sue Kolod, Ph.D. in the Psychology Today magazine, (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychoanalysis-unplugged/201806/can-we-really-prevent-suicide-yes) we can help to reduce suicide rates. 

Perhaps the UK government finally realised the breadth of the problem that many find difficult to talk about and decided to act proactively! Fingers crossed this appointment, if not only on paper, will help to prevent suicide and reduce or even remove the stigma felt by many mourning families who feel awkward sharing the cause of death because of preconceptions from others who still consider the actions of mental heath sufferers as irresponsible or as a sign of weakness. 

It is definitely the time for us as a society to change the understanding of the situation and view the so called weak victims of their own mental torments as sensitive souls who struggle to deal with the heavy demands created mostly by ourselves, themselves, family and society. 

We all have to accept that what may be a normal day for some can equally be a hard and long day for mental health sufferers. To navigate through life is hard, particularly nowadays with the extremism enacted by Trump, Brexit, as well as other worldly tensions and unhappiness. As we know, mental health does not choose social class, nationality, colour or gender. It can affect anyone!

You may be asking what does this post have to do with osteopathy or even with my life. I would say that there is a lot to do with my personal life and perception of osteopathy! 

Pain when felt with honest awareness helps to put the ego to one side and soften the heart, while appreciating the lessons that our revealing life brings! Unfortunately, this learning doesn’t bring people back but definitely brings changes and growth if we do our homework without feeling victimised. 

It was during one of these personal and painful episodes that my perception of life totally changed and my view of osteopathy also changed. I am not trying to prove that osteopathy can treat or cure mental health issues because we just can’t! Sufferers will benefit from appropriate medical, psychiatric and psychological help.

What I am saying is that I have become a more holistic, humble and honest osteopath after going through a difficult chapter in my life and was lucky enough to be held and helped by my caring family, friends and my osteopathic family! Although my soul still carries the marks of some enforced changes, I have chosen to relate to the “half full glass” again but perhaps could not have done as well if I had not been supported by others mentioned above and by osteopathy! By the way, I did not become more religious, but definitely more comfortable as a spiritualist. 

Life events can teach us, carers and health professionals, to develop our compassion and acceptance without judgment of others, by learning to listen more or even read between the lines. 

It feels more comfortable to speak out and also say to patients that we, osteopaths, don’t cure conditions or illnesses but with the compassion and empathy needed for a positive interaction, a clear understanding of osteopathic principles together with well trained and knowledgeable hands and minds, we can be quite effective in supporting bodily coping mechanisms when treating many of the struggles manifested as physical symptoms.

I my view, osteopathy is also a work of intentions executed by our kind hands. I don’t buy into the “more pain more gain” motto! Patients are already experiencing pain, so why increase it? 

How about the consideration that we can help to create a more comfortable, integrated environment for the psychic and emotional to co-exist with the physical body, helping others have a life with less discomfort and more presence?

Wow! It sounds like a statement! Could this be a possible way to contribute to reducing symptoms related to mental health distress? This could be explored in the next blog post, when we get there! To be continued…..