Worldwide people are advocating for better health care systems; Self-care, stress reduction techniques, how to work through grief, coping with personality disorders and every other mental health-related issue. And I can say that this is a brilliant move through our journey of spreading awareness on mental health and making it get the proper attention it deserves.
Just as physical illness needs attention and care and frequent medication for someone to get better, mental illnesses also need attention. It might need different forms of therapy, support groups, and at times medication for someone to feel better. A difference it has with physical illnesses is that aside from frequent triggers that come in the forms of smell, taste, images, sounds and touch, there are different stages that people go through to achieve healing.
And I’ll do a brief example of grief/loss. Grief is a response to the loss of something or someone in which an emotional bond was formed. It can be the loss of a loved one or a job or paralysis caused by an accident or illness. This response can be experienced emotionally, physically, and behaviorally.
Emotionally, this is an overwhelming feeling of sadness, anger, shock, and guilt that a person experiences when someone or something close to them is taken away from them. Physically, this is a point at which the symptoms of grief start showing up on your body. A person may have cardiovascular illnesses, headaches, insomnia or even joint pain. Behaviorally, just as we act based on our feelings and emotions, grief can make individuals experience anxiety, isolation, confusion or outbursts of anger.
After a process of therapy, one might experience triggers as a result of being in a special place that they shared; whether it’s the loss of a person or the end of a relationship. Or a colour the person likes, the smell of a fragrance, food, or seeing the person look alike.
If it’s a job, this individual may be triggered by words relating to the kind of work they did, what they used to wear or being in the presence of a former colleague.
If it’s physical loss due to ill health or an accident, the individual might be triggered by old photos or seeing other individuals being in a position of doing something that at the moment he’s not able to do.
All this is called the grieving process and it varies from one individual to the other because we are all different in how we take and process information and our cognitive abilities are also different.
There are 5 stages of grief that a person may go through to achieve healing or acceptance. These stages were developed in 1969 by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book Death and Dying as a model to describe people with a terminal illness, but later adopted as a way of thinking about grief in general.
These stages do not happen in a particular order because people experience these feelings at different times and not everyone experiences all the 5 stages.
Denial When a person is experiencing grief, one may end up feeling numb for several days and others may carry on as if nothing happened. A person may claim to see or hear the person or at times feel the person’s presence; this happens when an important person to someone has passed on and the person is finding it hard to believe that they are not coming back. In case of loss of a job, the person may wake up early and dress up for the job.
Anger This is a common and natural emotion that occurs once something close to someone comes to an end. It is normal to feel angry at the person who has died, ended the relationship or the person who caused you to lose your job. At times, we also might get angry at ourselves for not being able to prevent the situation from happening.
Bargaining This is a point in healing where we try to make deals with ourselves and sometimes with God if the person is religious. People might try to change their lifestyles in hopes of feeling better. This is also the stage where an individual goes over and over what happened and keeps on wishing that things were different.
Depression When something important to us comes to an end, sadness and longing are what usually come to us. A person may experience loneliness, isolation, numbness, and feelings of worthlessness that last a long period and life can feel meaningless. You may lose interest in daily routines or things you like doing and were familiar with.
Acceptance This comes gradually after the pain of losing a person, a job or a person’s health, starts to ease. You come into terms with what happened and start accepting. The memories of what happened will never go aware, the triggers will always be there, but like a wound that healed, the scare will be there, it just won’t hurt.