Dr Eve Watson is a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist and Hibernia College Tutor; here she reflects on what World Mental Health Day means to her and about the importance of connectivity in the true sense.
World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to pause, reflect and take stock. Sounds easy doesn’t it, except it often isn’t. There is much to get in the way of hitting the all-important pause button. There is the whirl of busyness that characterizes the contemporary world where people are increasingly expected and required to be busy; the immediacy of access of our digitally globalized planet and the challenge of “switching off;” and the demands of being a student on a full-blown master’s in education. Then there the blows of adversity that are especially irksome if they fall unannounced; the dreaded bolts out of the blue. People can be left feeling hapless and overwhelmed by a concentration of these forces and the demands to perform to a high level a lot of the time. It is easy to forget that, as with a well-honed athlete, downtime or a day off is just as important as the hard work and the performance. People cannot keep going all of the time, and eventually something will give way.
It may sound like a pithy pun, but the most important way to connect is to literally and figuratively switch-off. Here we are in the earthy autumn and how many have actually paused to observe the leaves change colour and fall, spot the recent spectacular harvest moon, and smell the season change. This may sound free-floating and frivolous but it is a powerful measure of the quality of our lives to access what it actually means to feel ourselves to be in the world and to be able to observe its changes and mysteries
Connecting with others in meaningful ways is also a challenge, in spite of the incessant pinging of satellite signals and the instantaneous reach of the worldwide web. When it comes to connections that really matter, there is no good substitute for picking up the phone or meeting a loved one, an intimate or a treasured friend. There is no greater testament to the other person of their importance to you than setting the time aside, not to dash off a quick WhatsApp message or email, but to actually speak to them person-to-person. And you will be rewarded in kind and you may expect the other’s person time and interest. This is one vital aspect of being part of the community of people that make up our world as we tend to not fare well in isolation and in digital-only connectivity.
For me, the important message of World Mental Health Day is the critical importance of community and place. Are we a community woven together by connectivity in the true sense of it, united by sharing and mutual care? Or are we connected to others via a Facebook “like” and a chat thread? It is up to us to shape our world and amazingly it can be simply done by humanizing our interactions and making others and not ourselves the most important for an hour or two. We are all inter-dependent and none of us can ultimately be masters of our fate, i.e. we cannot control everything. But we can work against the factors of division, segregation and distance that are increasingly impinging on connectivity and communitarianism. This, in order to weave “a community of concern and responsibility for the equal right to be human and the equal ability to act on that right” (Zygmunt Bauman, 2001).