Last year, an 18-year-old student of music, Sarah Liberti delivered a brilliant performance of words at TEDX Talks which brought the audience to a standing ovation. Sarah has dealt with depression in her past and through it, her journey must have been one of many ups and downs. Her TEDX Talk brought up a very common and yet often overlooked issue of just how deep the stigma about mental illness run within most of us – even within those of us who normally consider ourselves educated and open-minded.
Society is gradually opening up and exposure to media & social-media has systematically ensured that we have started being more tolerant and accepting of those living with mental illness around us. However complete eradication of stigma against mental illness is still a bit of a long process which is yet to unfold. So even though we have opened up, there are times when we can see the signs of stigma within ourselves raising its little ugly head – especially when we come face to face with a person or a situation first hand.
But what is a little shocking is Sarah’s narration about the way her own therapist reacted to her at one time. Therapists are professionally trained to have “warmth and acceptance”. They learn how to hone skills to improve their “empathy”. And with years of practice, they only tend to get better at these. So when one hears about a therapist who gets uncomfortable with her own clients battles with mental illness, well then that raises a lot of other questions!
Sarah’s video spoke mainly about the sense of discomfort, fear and shame that even near and dear ones tend to feel when they interact with an individual suffering from a mental illness. Friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, relatives, teachers, confidantes – everyone ends up behaving the same way due to their own innate fears and sense of discomfort.
She speaks about her experience with a close friend whom she chose to speak with after coming out of the hospital. The reaction that followed changed everything about their relationship from then onwards.
Statements such as “people who want to commit suicide were weak, let them” etc may sometimes be a friend trying to give strength at times when you feel weak, but one needs to realize that when you are struggling with your situation, strength may not be the primary thing you need? But it’s obvious that reactions like these stem from being uncomfortable with dealing with people with mental illness. We are not taught about how to deal with this discomfort while we grow up and it ends up resulting in these feelings and thoughts spreading amongst our society.
Discomfort is the root of all misery.
The fear that we might hurt someone does not let us convey our true feelings or emotions well. If someone deals with their sadness they are supposed to take that journey alone.
In another instance in her talk, she refers to a religious teacher explaining to her pupils that people who commit suicide go to hell and there is no scope for them to visit heaven as they had taken the most precious God-given gift of life away.
Life is beautiful. However, this teacher was uncomfortable in seeing an individual’s pain when they actually end their life.
There is a need to reach out such people rather than overlooking their pain. If you or someone is facing a problem ask for help, share your emotions.
At the beginning of her talk, Sarah starts on a light note casually mentioning suicide and it draws giggles from the audience.
Humour is expected specially when the topic is a light one, but considering the topic she brought up was suicide, the giggles highlighted a very important reality about all of us as human beings. We often tend to cloak our discomfort with humor! Why are people okay in describing their pain humorously? Did they do it to laugh and joke on it? Was the pain presented in form of a humor?
Yes, the pain was projected in form of humor because there was a discomfort about speaking about the hard feelings that were difficult to describe. When one does not know how to manage the situation or what is to be done in a given set of circumstances, they feel uncomfortable and retract into a shell.
The most beautiful part of being a human is that we all have these emotions of happiness, joy, and love and that we are all “different”. We all experience different emotions, different thoughts, aspirations and different moments of joy and despair. There is also something good that comes from feeling and embracing the depths of despair and hopelessness. Every human has to embrace discomfort at some point of time or the other.
Sarah Liberti’s video can be found on the TEDx or YouTube.
How does Counselling & Therapy Help?
We all face several struggles in life … such as grief, sorrow or loss of a loved one, financial collapse, natural disaster or health degradation. It is common and normal to face any of such problems. It is how one handles these kinds of adversities will have an impact on one’s quality of life.
If you are finding yourself in poor relationship with your friends and family, a professional counsellor can be of great help. Through counselling one can experience a shift in relationships. At times, in such situations, it may even be better to find a new group of friends.
With good counselling one can cultivate a good friendship that is the main ingredient towards a happier life. But just in case all your relationships have ended and your counsellor is only fulfilling his or her job it is a serious problem.
Releasing pain through crying is also an integral part of counselling. However, if you feel that your counsellor or therapist is inculcating a negative belief and processes information such that healing is not getting improved then you are in a mess, but this happens very rarely.
Empathy In Counselling
Having empathy consists of knowing deeply about an individual emotional state and treating them with appropriate emotional reactions. Empathy is a vital component of one’s emotional intelligence also required for success in many professions. Empathy helps one to develop good levels of rapport and trust.
Lack of empathy can lead to conflicts that can arise out of misunderstandings.
Therappo’s online counselling empathizes and strongly follow that they have to be empathetic towards an individual and his or her concerns. This forges a strong bond between the counsellor and the patient making them feel more comfortable and at ease. In this way counsellors also adhere to a better treatment for their clients.
In an online counselling session at Therappo’s counsellor observe a patient’s facial expressions, eye expressions, posture, body language and their gestures very accurately. Counsellors are aware that patients can be more motivated with a good level of empathy during a counselling session.
After taking counselling sessions with Therappo one may better understand and learn about situations that may have been counterproductive to respond empathetically.
Counsellors are experts who are able to state things very assertively even while they disagree with someone. It is said that at times listening without judgments is useful and works efficiently in conveying cognitive empathy.