• La Shawn L. Splane-Wilburn, Founder of Homagi

THE MAN & THE LION OR THE LION & THE MAN - How the View of the Mental Health Community Is Important

The Man and the Lion

A MAN and a Lion traveled together through the forest. They soon began to boast of their respective superiority to each other in strength and prowess. As they were disputing, they passed a statue carved in stone, which represented a Lion strangled by a Man. The traveler pointed to it and said: See there! How strong we are, and how we prevail over even the king of beasts. The Lion replied: This statue was made by one of you men. If we Lions knew how to erect statues, you would see the Man placed under the paw of the Lion.” – Aesop

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In the famous fable “The Man and the Lion” the man saw himself as the stronger of the two having superiority, strength and prowess; the statue erected was even in mans image and showed him overtaking the lion. What of the lions story? What if that was only a page out of the whole story?

In the media many times the mental health community gets the lion’s share of the blame when someone makes a horrible choice to choose violence or to take innocent lives. Immediately there is the “mentally ill” reference and how parents and family members should have seen it coming or how they must have “ignored the signs”.

The view from so many who are battling mental health challenges and navigating a sometimes very “inflexible” road to recovery in spite of the many “road blocks” with health insurance, poor medication, little to no support, and for many waiting for months to see a psychologist to be diagnosed and/or treated; that view is hardly every represented. Those stories get lost on the editors table.

Stigma not only rears its head out in society where there are very few allies, but it shows up within the mental health healthcare community. How many doctors or nurses have brushed off a person’s concern for their health only to later find out it was justified? Many healthcare workers see so many patients a day they forget that each person has different needs; different diagnosis, different experiences, different cultures and those factors deeply affect how someone would interact with the medical staff or to treatment.

Having a strong “front line” and people who are not afraid to tell their story are what is going to help to eradicate stigma. The more the world learns about mental health the more it understands. The mental health community is a very complex community made up of people from all cultures, races, ages and genders. Honestly mental health belongs to us all. At any given point on any given day we will have an encounter with something that could affect our mental health.

Depression happens to the best of us, it’s not a one layer illness. Someone could lose a loved one tragically and experience depression for a short period of time and bounce back. Someone else could have the very same loss and be affected for years. Someone could have chemical or biological reasons they are struggling with depression which require medication long term. The point is everyone at some point in their lives will have an encounter with depression. The commonality is what will help people to have compassion.

Once you know that what you are experiencing is experienced by other people on either the same degree or worse you are able to let go of the belief that you are alone and your beating mental illness and fighting for recovery is dependent on your belief that you can; recovery is not only possible but it is manageable long term.

Most of the challenge in battling a mental illness comes from the resistance from family, friend, society, and sometimes mental health care personnel. It’s important to “erect” statues within the mental health community so that the story is not one dimensional. There are so many survivors and stories of survival to share and to educate the public on the lives of persons living well with mental illnesses.

Stigma is the “man” of the hour right now but the Lions will have their day soon. Keep talking about mental health. Keep thriving and surviving. Every Opportunity you get speak openlly and honestly about mental health, the more people you talk to the more they talk about mental health, and the more people hear about mental health.

Thank you to the mental health teams of parents, spouses, children, friends, and mental health care personnel who work hard to help survivors. Without a great team this journey can be rough, totally possible but rough. Make sure to take advantage of support groups and mental health resources available in your community. God bless!

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