Growing Down: 20 years of World mental health Day

I was swimming with my kids in a local pool recently. A few mental health service users usually come along because the pool is quite empty at the start of the day. I love the fact that my kids don’t judge, they don’t stare or try too hard not to. To them people are people, even if their expressions or behaviours are different. Sometimes I wish I was as generous as they are.

World Mental Health Day celebrates 20 years of trying to reduce stigma for those suffering from Mental Health issues and I am trying to work out if things are better than when I was 16. I started to think about what it meant to ‘grow up’ in our approach to mental health but then I thought about my kids and wondered if we didn’t need to ‘grow down’.

That day in to pool a mature man, fully bearded and living with a severe and enduring condition, was swimming up and down next to us. The kids were very happy with him being there and even our life-guard was trying to offer him some tips on how to improve his strokes. Then his adult carer called him over to the side and in full ear-shot of us all called him a, “very naughty boy.” He tousled his hair like you might a 5 year olds and then ordered the confused man out of the pool. And that was it.

I am still wondering why some adults steal other’s dignity so keenly. I guess they want to be bigger or stronger or better or anything other than their own small selves. And as I am thinking about them, I feel a kick in my own conscience and know that there isn’t really some other adult, there is just us; that we all ‘grow up’ with a leaning to ‘put down’. I don’t want to just single out one carer’s error, I want to challenge a mentality.

My kids think people are funny, or sad or grumpy but they don’t think that for their own positions sake. Some people think that kids are cruel, but I disagree. They may say what they see, but at least they don’t categorize, or manipulate or judge to bolster their own egos.  Surely Jesus was aware of this when he said in Luke 18:16 "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.”  And so I guess I am still wondering if we need to ‘grow up’ about mental health or if we need to ‘grow down’ and start acting like accepting children without ambition or pretence or power.

Be blessed,
Will Van Der Hart, 10/10/2012
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