Safe Place: Mental Health

There is no health without mental health; mental health is too important to be left to the professionals alone, and mental health is everyone’s business – Vikram Patel

The Key to Awareness

A village in Britain had a problem with speeding vehicles but posting signs with speed limits did nothing to solve the speeding problem. Officials decided to plant flowers along the side of the road to enhance biodiversity. In addition to attracting more wildlife, they discovered that the flowers acted as a natural speed trap. Drivers slowed down when they passed the flowers. What road signs and speed limits couldn’t do, the flowers were up to the task. The drivers who passed through the village saw the flowers as creating a calming environment worth their time. 

We live in a rush-and-dash world. We are all speeding somewhere while the busyness of our schedules masks the fear, shame, depression, and anxiety. To be a safe place where people slow down and are willing to share about their mental obstacles, we must become like the flowers along the side of the road in the village of Long Newton in Gloucester. 

In an age of momentous mental crises and the level of busyness increasing, how can we become safe places where people want to be vulnerable to talk through their mental struggles and find help and healing?

Be attentive

Described as the extent of the observable world seen at a given time, your field of view (FOV) is crucial to what you observe. Our eyes have a maximum horizontal FOV of 135 degrees and a 180 degrees vertical FOV. In life, your field of view is the key to being observant. Without the right FOV, we remain with blind spots that restrict our spectrum of awareness. Lack of awareness is the biggest obstacle to becoming a safe place for others to share their mental challenges. We develop blind spots and miss obvious cues to help others facing a mental crisis. How do we eliminate blind spots? Improving our FOV makes us more aware and helps build trust with people. An improved FOV also gives a view that is greater than ourselves. We become observant and attentive to others to help.

Against the backdrop of shame, regret, anxiety, and depression, attentiveness cultivates empathy, compassion, and encouragement which are the flagship characteristics to be a safe place. 

Be attractive

In addition to being attentive, a safe place where people can be vulnerable and be honest about their mental struggles requires you to be attractive. One of the simplest ways to be attractive is to be a better listener. 

Learning to listen can raise your relational equity because it shows you are interested in the other person and value their thoughts and feelings. By listening, you get an inside look into other people. Listening is like performing an X-ray or MRI. You get to know others more deeply. You get to know their heartbeat and get in touch with the current condition of their heart. Next time you listen to someone speak, engage your heart and mind. The relationship will flourish and become even more valuable. Those who talk the most without giving time to listen to others are often the most lonely.

Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.

Bernard Baruch

Mental burdens are lifted when we choose to listen. Prolific author Brenda Ueland challenged,  “Think how the friends that listen to us are the ones we move toward and want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.” She explains, “When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold, and expand. Ideas begin to grow within us and come to life.” 

Final Thought: You can be a safe place for someone to slow down and share their mental burdens with when you become attentive and attractive. This week, flower your life by seeing the people in your spheres and be aware of what they are going through. Second, commit to intentionally listening more and talking less. You’ll raise the quality of life for the people you interact with.

Keep on keeping on! 


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