By: Elizabeth Kennedy
Somewhere along the “information super highway” of our technologically “advanced” culture, we have forgotten that human connection matters and our reliance on various forms of our not-so-social media has replaced our humanity, even with those living under the same roof. How many times do we communicate through a text message to those in the same room? The lie is that 1,053 “friends” who like or comment on the stories we choose to share is sufficient communication, and while it fulfills that instant gratification of connection, it fails to sustain our innate need and desire to have intimacy. When this basic human need of connection is not met, our mental capacity for growth and coping with daily stress suffers.
The trouble with mental health in our society is that we do not know what is mental health. We have somehow misconstrued the definition to only apply to those of us who we like to judge as having done truly unthinkable acts that harm others in the vilest of ways or at the very least it applies to those who act in ways that are outside of societal norms. We tend to lump those with mental health issues into categories like criminal or “crazy” people, and we tend to believe that they should be isolated from harming the rest of us because they are not mentally stable enough to interact appropriately. While part of this is true to protect safety of the masses, the harm for us has been that we believe these are the only ones who are mentally unstable. So, in addition to ostracizing a particular group of seemingly “dangerous” people, we’ve also managed to ostracize the only effective avenue we have for helping any of us manage everything from simple anxieties to complex traumas that a majority of our population silently struggles with.
Mental health applies to everyone on the planet, and it takes effort to maintain stability in our mental health throughout the course of our trauma filled lives. No one goes through life without hurt or pain and few are those that are able to draw from healthy coping skills 100% of the time without the help of another human. What I have learned in my first year as a therapist intern is just how important the human connection is for our mental health, and ultimately our survival. I have not had to be an expert in any particular technique, have mastery over a particular model or had years of therapy experience to see my clients succeed. My education has given me knowledge of best practices, but it is the connection I form with clients by putting my phone down and offering 100% of my attention on them for an hour that develops their resolve. It builds hope that they are not alone, and they are a part of something much bigger than themselves.
There is no degree or license required to be a kind, caring, supportive human being. Next time you sit in a waiting room or stand in line at the grocery store, look up. Put down the social media and be social. Your friends and neighbors, even your world, is depending on your human connection.