Mindful of Mental Wealth - Today is World Mental Health Day 2019

Article written by Lee Welch.  Last updated 10 October 2019 12:00 pm

"Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide."
- World Health Organisation

You can't help notice global concern for the state of our mental health. On 10 October every year, it's World Mental Health Day. An initiative by the World Federation for Mental Health since 1992. Countries around the world support this important day of awareness. This year there's a focus upon suicide prevention.

There's a good reason for the concern. Within the UK alone, around 3 million people have depression. More than half of all individuals committing suicide suffer from depression. About 50% of those who engage in self-mutilation begins around age 14 and carry on into their 20s.1  These troubling statistics barely scratch the surface of the depth of the issue.

My battles with mental health now feel like a different lifetime. I am happy, have a positive outlook and embrace the adventures life takes me on. Some days are great, some are challenging, but underneath every day is a quiet sense of peace and a sense that, whatever happens, everything will be alright. Knowing first hand what mental suffering felt like, I would gladly bottle what I've found and pass it onto others. It's why I teach tai chi, and soon be coaching to help do that.

Over twenty-five years ago, it was different. I wanted to kill myself.

One night, I'd taken myself off into the middle of a field, fell to my knees, and screamed into the darkness with utter despair. I didn't want anyone to hear or see the self-loathing rage that devoured me inside. I rocked as I wept. I must have cried until the tears ran out. I'd had a massive argument with my family, my then-fiance and, being religious at the time, God too. I didn't feel like I could speak to anyone and didn't believe anything could be done to take the adverse feelings away. I was too scared to live and too afraid to die. Empty and broken, I crawled back into my "miserable existence", seeing no way out from hell. For surely, I reasoned, hell was where I was. The wrong "opportunity" to see my dark thoughts through would have meant a tragic outcome.

Family and friends helped me through over a decade of depression, anxiety and panic attacks before several defining moments turned everything around for me. I'm one of the fortunate few. 

You might expect me to tell you Tai Chi changed it all for me. I've little doubt that's true for many practitioners (and NHS agree Tai Chi Can Improve Mental Health). However, before I discovered Tai Chi, I had an insight. It's possible to point to the insight, but you have to experience it for yourself to appreciate. The world changed for me after that. But I felt compelled to find physical expression of what I'd discovered. It was then I met and fell in love with tai chi.

Practitioners of tai chi recognise the powerful effect on relaxation and concentration. Tai Chi offers a tool to cope with busy modern-day life. It helps you to appreciate the tranquillity and nature around you.  

Practitioners of tai chi recognise the powerful effect on relaxation and concentration. Tai Chi offers a tool to cope with busy modern-day life. It helps you to appreciate the tranquillity and nature around you.  

Everything in tai chi is done slowly, smoothly and is continuous. It helps us to get back in touch with our body and, in so doing, back in touch with nature. When we do this, we recognise the wisdom of our body often goes ignored. By listening to the body, we become present and enter coherence — that special place between duality, the middle path. Our mind and body connection unlock our innate healing capabilities, both of body and mind.  

Imagine the effect that can have for those in suffering. That is to say, most of us. And then the impact that may have on our world.

Listening with compassion can also make the difference between life and death. When I suffered from panic attacks, sometimes I'd been too terrified to even go into work in case the panic grabbed me, and I'd find myself fighting for breath. I had a Manager who understood them. His sister had experienced them before.  Through sitting quietly with me, speaking slowly and calmly, the panic attacks gradually subsided.

Suffering from mental illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of. I learnt that eventually but was nevertheless ashamed of it for years. Over time, I discovered speaking about it with the right people did help tremendously. So, if you're worried about something, speak up. Don't try to conquer the worry alone.  

And if someone tries to speak to you about their worries, there's no more fabulous gift than listening. It does not mean taking on their problems. Nor does it mean providing all the solutions. Being present will be a gift to them. Taking in what they have to say. Understand their point of view while suspending your judgements and opinions. Showing you care.

If you would like to know more about how you can be part of the solution, visit WHO's web page on World Mental Health Day 2019: focus on suicide prevention.

    References:
  1. The Ultimate List of Mental Health Statistics
    https://www.uksmobility.co.uk/blog/2019/03/mental-health-statistics/