I recently caught up on some podcasts and came across this idea from game designer and author Jane McGonigal. During an interview on People I (Mostly) Admire, she and Steven Levitt talked more about the idea, but in the most simplistic terms, the idea is this: When you start a conversation, ask someone how their…
While I’m not an expert by any means, I look at it similarly to how I look at mental health in the workplace. You simply aren’t going to get the best results from people until you recognize that they are people first, and employees (or students) second. That means that they cannot perform their best when they are also dealing with various life situations and struggles that have nothing to do with the immediate work at hand, and we would get better results if we made efforts to support the whole person and not just the robot that is there to do work.
SEL is that for schools. It recognizes that kids come to school with a variety of issues that would hinder their ability to be successful in school, and makes an effort to support them in those struggles so that they can be more successful not only with school work but with the interactions they have with teachers and other students.
But, this acronym has gotten mixed in with all the other things that some parents are upset about and they are demanding that schools stick to teaching math, science, and reading instead. Let me try and point out why this is a mistake.
Even when there are things in the world that I do not have the power to change, I use my own words to remind myself that there are things I CAN do. I can look after the people around me. I can add my voice to support mental health, survivors, and marginalized groups. I can find ways to contribute to making the world a better place in some small ways while also encouraging others to do the same.
This also serves as a great reminder to myself that writing here about these topics is never a waste. I just found some hope by going back and reading what I wrote. Who knows who else might read these words and find a little hope too? That is another small thing I can do that is more useful than wallowing in my anxiety.
When Laura talks about the reactions she’s afraid of getting she is 100% correct. A big part of why I hesitate often to tell people when I’m struggling, feeling incredibly anxious, depressed, or just mentally out of sorts is because I absolutely do not want to hear about how many other people are struggling worse. I already know there are a lot of people struggling. People who don’t have the resources I do, don’t have the support I do, with poor physical health issues or being a part of an underprivileged group, etc. I know, and I understand that I am privileged to have the things that I do and the tools to try and take care of myself that others do not.
And yet, my struggles are still struggles. If I am telling you about them it’s because I need someone to know. I need to be heard. I need to explain what is happening in my own head to someone who will listen to me. I am not negating anyone else’s struggle by talking about my own. Please understand when I, or someone else you know, comes to you and tells you that they are struggling with our mental health, it has likely taken all of our energy just to gather up the courage to tell anyone, so when you deflect like this it’s devastating to us. We carry these heavy, heavy, burdens with us every single day of our lives and we simply need someone to recognize them and maybe help us a little bit every now and again.
So, what do we do? We can definitely take advantage of the suggestions made by Lindsey Holmes in that HuffPost link above. We can also acknowledge that without available therapists, many of us are going to have to do the best we can for ourselves and each other. We are going to have to muddle through this, and the only way to muddle through is by supporting each other. No, we are not therapists and we shouldn’t really try to be. But, we can be human beings who care enough about other humans to offer support. Whether that be in person, through text or calls, on social media, etc. we can all offer something to each other. We can all share our stories and our struggles because right now there’s simply no excuse for anyone to feel like they are struggling alone.
We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult:
“You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well)
“Are you sure it was abuse?”
“I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that”
“Why didn’t you just leave?”
“How could you have let that happen?”