In a recent study (one that I’m only a little frustrated I can’t find again) it was found that 2 in 3 people feel acutely uncomfortable at the idea of talking about mental health.
Let’s go back in time – I was at that citadel of learning they call Edinburgh University – eagerly hanging on the words of the lecturers and living in terror should I say the wrong thing.
“What kinds of families are there?” the lecturer asked innocuously, “Come on – there’s no right answer…”
In social work there is always a right answer – they just pretend there isn’t…
As a class of about 30 we went through every politically correct family construction you could possibly imagine – and probably a few more – jointly terrified that we might say THE WRONG THING.
Andy – a Liberally minded social work type – (and therefore seen as right wing of Hitler by some of the class) had the audacity to say, “Mum, Dad and 2 kids?”
As a group we’d tied ourselves in knots – because of that we couldn’t communicate in a completely effective way because of fear.
There was a social work department in another university at the time that forbade the use of the term, “Black Coffee” because of they’re fear of the negative connotations…
At the same time this nonsense was going on there was a group of gay men in London who referred to themselves as, “Queer as Fuck”
They didn’t sound as if they were pickle as to what was the right thing to day.
Over the past few days I have been shown wonderful hospitality.
Jack, a retired man, invited me into his home, fed and watered me – joking that because I’d been a bit slow in getting to his house, I’d missed the casserole he’d made.
He lives on his own – his beautiful and lovely wife taken from him through cancer.
He has 2 sons who haven’t spoken to him for several years because he failed to attend a family get together because he was stuck in his grief.
He was a delight – funny, charming, generous, hospitable, interested in the sacred ramble…
I asked him if he’d contacted them…he told me he was afraid he’d get knocked back.
As long as he hasn’t tried to speak to them they hadn’t really fallen out.
I stayed at a couples’ house in Ayr. Their hospitality knew no bounds. I’d been walking for a few days – I’d been soaked – so I happily accepted Dug’s offer to stay an extra night.
It felt that he and I had got on like old friends – and in no time we were challenging each other on everything from politics to relationships.
After a day of lounging about with Diesel Cat (Their beautiful ginger Tom ) I finally got to meet his wife, Marisha, too.
The first thing she said as she walked in the door was, “I thought you’d be a lot smaller,” referring to my just in case inverted camel stomach that I’m saving for times of hardship.
With that, she picked up the bottle of wine I’d been drinking and put it away.
I laughed, Dug laughed – we all laughed – it looked like the drink had been confiscated due to my er, largess.
Dug, throughout my stay, kept saying,”You must be mad,” as we talked about the sacred ramble.
If I’d taken offence I’m sure the conversation would have become stilted – the feeling of hospitality, less hospitable…
How could I take umbridge when these were merely words – their attitude clearly showed kindness and respect.
This is part what I think people are saying when they say they are afraid to talk about mental health problems.
They’re afraid of saying the wrong thing – or like Jack – anything to prevent that uncomfortable mumbling, rambling communication that might bring 2 sides together.
Sure there are folk who are genuinely malicious – but even they maybe using language to say they are afraid and they don’t know where to start.
Dug was astonished at the amount of hospitality and kindness that has come my way – he said…something along the lines of…”You’re no better looking than me – how come you get offered all this generosity?”
It is really quite simple. I expect nothing. I just think people are fabulous and interesting, kind and generous given the opportunity, loving and warm and trustworthy….even Aston Villa supporters.
Talk to folk – listen – don’t take offence.
Walk a mile