I am currently doing a Mental Health First Aid course (highly recommend it). One more session to go before I complete the training knowing that I am better equipped to spot some things and know the right way to approach and assist someone. On the other hand it makes me very aware that I know only a little bit of what people can be going through.
Something that happens a bit more then it should in our house is the smoke alarm going off, mainly because we had to remove all internal doors downstairs so I can have room to manoeuvre a wheelchair around should I need it. When it does start beeping loudly the first thing you do is get to the reason the alarm has gone off. Did the extractor fan not get put on? Did someone burn their egg when frying it, or forget something cooking in the oven? Or is it our family favourite -fried sea bass on the menu? The crispy skin that everyone loves really is a smoke detectors favourite reason to scream. There is no use in just standing under the alarm fanning franticly with a towel to get the dreadful piercing alarm to stop if the pizza is still burning in the oven, or the fish is still being fried. Any alarm going off is because there is something happening that is setting it off. Knowing yourself and be interested in others so you can spot when normal changes, and then be present and available to walk along someone whilst they find their burning pizza. I do see the flaw in this analogy because when you are being patient, listening and communicating non-judgementally which means not giving someone your side or your solutions, you probably in the real world of fire alarms going off would like to point out the burning pizza before the house catches fires.
My point I guess is, and my experience has showed me, that too often we are satisfied with helping someone get rid of the piercing alarm and talk about the very obvious things -kind of like pushing the button on your smoke detector that pauses it for 10 minutes. We hope by then whatever set it off will have sorted itself out. What we are forgetting sometimes is that it is often the unspoken small things that we need help to understand and work through. The power that there is in being listened to and talking things through, is incredible.
There are some great TV programs I have watched recently that I would highly recommend. One where Freddie Flintoff uses his platform to journey through with us and highlight issues surrounding Eating Disorder, and another one where Roman Kemp opens up about depression and highlights issues around Suicide, and the importance of talking.
These things together with the Mental Health First Aid training really has emphasised again the importance of listening in our communication. Winston Churchill said it well when he pointed out that it takes courage to stand up and speak, before he said ‘courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.’