Opinion: Priscilla Dann-Courtney: We all need to be mental health workers

Opinion: Priscilla Dann-Courtney: We all need to be mental health workers

Garry Garrison’s Dec. 4 op-ed, which focused on mental health, law enforcement and gun violence, brought tears of sadness but also a deep sense of gratitude for having worked in the field of Mental Health. The recognition that my work makes a difference is something I rarely think about. And that begs the question for all of us, do we really believe that our work is important in healing a world where so many people are vulnerable and suffering?

Garrison and the editorial board conclude by saying how important it is, as a community, that we dedicate ourselves to helping the most vulnerable among us. We are all important, we all count far beyond those trained in mental health. The more we can embrace the undeniable truth that our past and present individual labor has value, the more hope there is for a healthier world. Yet our self-esteem and the value we place on our contribution often go unnoticed by ourselves. Like our in-breath and our out-breath, our ability to inspire self-validation allows one out-breath to reach others. All of our improvement in mental health and self-acceptance will enable community collaboration to reach the most severely mentally ill population. But we have to come from a place of individual strength. Healing one heals all.

Priscilla Dann Courtney
Priscilla Dann Courtney

The pandemic has ushered in a new era in the workforce. More than 4.5 million people quit their jobs. We now live in a time of “great resignation” and, according to Gartner research, an accompanying description could be the “great reflection”. People ask, what do I really appreciate? What makes me feel whole and worthy? How can I contribute? Gartner reports that of 3,500 employees, 56% wanted to contribute more to society. This is a major change for millions of people that confirms that helping to create a better world has become paramount to increasing our satisfaction with the jobs we choose. Many feel lost but are determined to find a deeper sense of self and meaning in their work. The value placed on our individual mental health and satisfaction will inspire us to better find ways to serve those struggling with serious psychological problems and instability. In a sense, we all need to become mental health workers providing services in different creative and innovative ways.

The five essential “A” elements for achieving a healthier mental health world are: 1) Recognizing the primary value of all our mental health; 2) financial assistance to provide increased services; 3) attention through the search for causes and methods of treatment; 4) accessibility and availability for all; 5) adjustment of diagnosis and treatment taking into account diversity. Simultaneously recognize that there is no “other” when it comes to healing psychologically. It is a common path that we must all walk.

Many factors influence our job choices, including the essential financial aspect to meet our needs and those of our families. But the facts confirm that our individual choices have become subsumed under a global work to serve global well-being. To further this end, employers must give even higher priority to an environment that communicates to employees that they are making a difference. They are valued, trusted, respected and serve humanity, no matter how small. Connection, collaboration and communication in all areas of life create a powerful community force.

Together we have the power to heal. Rather, annual calendared appreciation days should be acts of daily recognition of how we care for our personal and overall mental health. We have all been through trauma and stress over the past few years. Our coping mechanisms have been strained and the most vulnerable among us often snap. May we all hug each other as mental health workers. It’s a career choice we can’t afford to ignore.

Priscilla Dann-Courtney can be contacted through her website: priscilladanncourtney.com

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