As an aspiring Essentialist (just learned this term the other day—love it!), I get very little syndicated content sent to my inbox. However, I do subscribe to Nilofer Merchant’s essays because I love her style and her ideology.
Yesterday, an essay titled “‘Tried’ Is No Longer Enough” landed in my inbox. Nilofer had decided to raise up her voice in response to the tragedy in Ferguson. In the introduction to the piece, she writes:
Each of us is living in working in places where “those in charge” doesn’t match up to “those who are affected”. And that gap between those “in power” and “the powerless” is to me a central source if not the source for so many issues.
This struck a chord with me, because my husband and I have had similar conversations related to mental health as I struggle with the second edition of my forthcoming book. How do I communicate to readers the power relationships that are present in the mental health discourse (i.e. the mental health “script”)?
The script that says that medication should be used as first-line treatment for kids with behavioral and emotional problems.
The script that tells us that mental illness is the result of a chemical imbalance, so it’s an individual issue.
The script that places more value on profit and control than people and compassion.
This is indeed a source for many issues.
She continues, “If there’s one message I’d want you to read, it’s this: see what you can do in your own community. Don’t watch history get made, go make history by making things better.”
Well, that made me perk up even more.
There are so many things wrong with our world. Many of these problems have detrimental effects on our children’s mental health. It’s exhausting to read (and write) about it—let alone do something about it.
Most days I waver between wanting to “go make history by making things better” and escaping to a tiny cottage in Scotland to read, write, cook, take long walks, nap, and do nothing. However, as of right now, the tiny cottage in Scotland is not on the horizon, so I’m stuck with making history—in my own small way.
I told you last week about speaking to the entire school district about mental health. I didn’t try to speak about mental health. I spoke about it. There was a slide up on the big screen that said “Everybody has mental health… Teachers, kids, & parents!” Bam. No getting around it. We must consider teachers’ and children’s mental health in order to optimize learning—and it’s a community effort. Tonight, I’m meeting with a group of brave parents who want to make history by promoting mental health in our community. It’s time!
This is not to brag about my community activism efforts (why would I?). Rather, it’s to show that there are things we can do right now to address some of the problems we have. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to be a speaker or a writer. Indeed, some of the most effective change makers are the ones in the middle of everyday life doing their thing. It’s the teachers who look their students in the eyes and teach unconditionally. It’s the family therapist who doesn’t assume behavior problems equal mental illness, but gets to the core of the problem by involving the whole family. It’s the doctor who uses medication as a last resort for kids. It’s the parent who questions the status quo of the mental health system and demands comprehensive, integrative care.
The most important thing is to do something—not just try to do something. Because, in the words of one of the wisest creatures ever, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
When leaders say they are “trying” but unable to accomplish their goal, what they are really saying is they haven’t made it a priority. ~Niolfer Merchant
(Credit to my husband Todd for the Yoda quote—it came in response to sending him Nilofer’s essay and inspired this post.)