What is Your Personal Story?
As you know, rarely do tales in mental health begin with a magical, “Once upon a time…” and easily resolve with a glorious “happily ever after”.
Instead, our chapters of struggle through our mental and emotional turmoil often involve deep sorrow and grief in far more impossibly difficult, unresolvable situations within our life story.
Those darker pages may manifest as metaphorical “savage beasts” that threaten us. Some of us encounter them as the dragons of depression, the mischievous monkeys of anxiety, the violent typhoons of trauma or other manifestations.
We see them declaring their unwanted wars upon our intrinsically wonderful minds, beautiful bodies, glorious emotions and sacred souls.
Marked and branded with well-meaning diagnoses, unavoidable gossip, or the best intentioned conversations, those of us who live with those “savage beasts” in our life narratives are forced to prepare ourselves with a strength that feels difficult to muster in our darker hours.
Whether we like it or not, discrimination, shaming, isolation and other unjust behaviours persist and sometimes follow us across relationships, workplaces, schools (and more), simply because of our mental health story–a reality that is quite difficult and, at times, feels impossible to manage [link].
What’s Our Collective Story?
When some of our personal stories collide with those disempowering forces external to us, it can get frustrating, confusing, and isolating.
Wherever we’re haunted by divisiveness, undeserved shame, resentment, and injustice, your story becomes even more entangled in a larger narrative–a dominant, disempowering version of our “collective story”.
This kind of collective story involuntarily traps us in the more limiting pages that sometimes consume our individual stories.
It’s when we internalize words or ideas such as “You are not enough”, “you don’t matter”, and other horribly critical inner critics and voices that some of us sadly mistaken for our own identities.
Then, that leaves us dangling in the complicated web of attitudes, de-humanizing perceptions and prejudicial divisions within our otherwise beautiful culture, society and sacred wonder of your truest self.
If this is the reality for you, a loved one, or community you serve, then surely we need alternative stories to tell.
Perhaps we need more empowering narratives that can “counter” those damaging collective stories that we face.
If so, this means re-imagining and re-telling humanizing stories together–empowering, collective counterstories.
That can be beautifully bridged with our own, celebrated in diversity, and relentless in their empathy and compassion for one another.
But in order to apply our bold high-level thinking into real and practical actions within our particular contexts, we require collaborative efforts to un-tangle, shift, or boldly re-design these “counter-stories” together.
This means co-creating solutions and the boldest innovation (however small or big), that realistically makes sense in the specific situation of your schools, particular conditions at your workplace, or within the unique dynamics of your family or community.
We believe it’s important to dream big…to be “recklessly creative” (it’s how we describe the process).
At the same time, you have the gift of being where you are, for a time such as this…So, of course you know your contexts best.
With thoughtful reflection, that means bravely composing a rhythm of incredible vision + very actionable solutions.
What is The “Systemic” Story?
While we’ve surely witnessed inspiring societal progress in many areas of mental health awareness, stigma reduction and service provision across our communities, workplaces, governments, schools, media and professional healthcare services, etc, much more needs to be done.
Whatever we might think about our imperfect “system” of mental health across all areas and levels of society, it’s much easier now than ever before to find allies who see the vital importance of mental health issues.
Quite visibly, we see visible celebrities like Lady Gaga or Prince William speaking openly about mental health; Mental Health Awareness Week trending virally on Twitter; national mental health campaigns that miraculously unite governments, corporations and anti-establishment activists to a common, urgent cause.
We’re also seeing increasing innovation from neuroscience research on the brain, empirical studies on the power of compassion, and even mental health technology startups and social enterprises arising.
Of course, with much less fanfare, we see the backbone of all this mental health progress through the countless schools, smaller non-profits, grass-roots movements, education administrators healing professionals, medical practitioners, and volunteers whom meaningfully and powerfully impact lives everyday.
Even so, I’m sure you’d agree that much more needs to be done as there are many systemic challenges left to untangle.
For example, many threads weave through the systemic challenges of mental health such as the:
- very language we use to describe one’s “mental health” and /or “mental illness” in everyday life, to
- persistent stereotypes or perceptions we see portrayed in media or our popular understandings, or the
- social inequities in your district, town, city or country.
- unmet social needs and inadequately addressed social determinants of (mental) health and holistic well-being for many families, immigrants, refugees in our local communities
Even further, the systemic challenges persist through current structures and dynamics within hospitals, schools or workplaces, such as the:
- silos and gaps between physical and mental health care that still persist,
- the realities of insufficient mental health accommodations at work, or the
- continued stigma and lopsided counsellor-to-student ratio in your school or college/university.
Of course, the web of complexity proceeds deeper than I’ve summarized, and continues to slow otherwise promising progress.
Now we’re not here to arbitrarily re-invent any wheels unnecessarily.
But together, we can continue conversations about what practical strategies have worked for you so far.
Then we can open more dialogues about new meaningful, innovative solutions that pragmatically make sense in your contexts.
How do we imagine the CounterStory?
Now we certainly have our own deeply personal mental health stories, here at The CounterStory Collective. In fact, we’re here because of both your story and ours, for a time such as this.
We’re devoted to helping you re-imagine possibilities to profoundly transform the lives of yourself, loved ones and the communities you serve and lead.
From what our minds here imagine, here are the first foundations we’re dreaming of so far. Perhaps you’ll resonate with some of them.
Regardless of whether the ultimate ‘answer’ to our overall well-being originates through our brains, relational attachments, societal injustices and inequities or souls–we believe in an interdisciplinary approach that co-creates and collaborates across all of these perspectives and more.
For example we are dedicated to relentlessly seek the ideals of understanding, not discrimination; openness, not exclusion; and a free voice…instead of silences fed by shame.
We imagine a world that:
- Amplifies in Empathy and Acceptance. Disclosing mental health challenges is no longer taboo. It’s free from shame, discrimination and negative consequences from family, friends, employers and your cultural community
- Unites in Vision & Solidarity. Strong collaboration, communication (non-existent silos) and united vision exist across the diverse service providers in mental health, medical healthcare, education, government and funders.
- Evolves in Growth Mindset & Community Implementation. Education, awareness and widespread implementation of workplace mental health policies and accommodations are prevalent.
A world that normalizes this across every sector, industry, organization and family would be amazing, wouldn’t it? It might jus be what we need to create meaningful, positive changes that produce a sustainable legacy that resonate for generations.