Write Team: Pay attention and others may make more sense

People think their way is the best and everyone should think like them.

Many take it farther, and try to rule your life. They rarely understand your situation.

This can be a real problem when you suffer from mental health issues. We think people should “pull themselves up by their boot straps.” Sometimes bootstraps have broken, or the boots don’t have any straps.

When I was working with teens I didn’t always understand when they had mental health problems. I tried at least to listen to them. Sometimes, that alone was enough at the time to help them maintain. At other times, I gave them advice or suggested they do things to have them get along in our program. I hope my advice was helpful to them. However, now I realize that, although I was trying to help; I was usually looking at their situation through my way of thinking, not theirs.

One of the most misunderstood mental health issues is depression. We expect to see depression through people being “down.” It usually does, but especially in teenage males, it can appear as anger and acting out behavior. I’m no expert on depression, and don’t suffer from clinical depression. I have been mildly depressed when not getting a promotion, and when I was prescribed a medication that was a maintenance medication for the first time. As a fairly normal male, I believe, accepting this conceivably could be a medicine I would need to use the rest of my life was hard to swallow (no pun intended.) Us men like to picture ourselves as almost indestructible, not quite as confused of a picture as teens have of themselves.

I don’t believe anyone else saw my depression, as I plodded ahead with work and life. So, it can be, with some suffering from depression.

Giving advice from our viewpoint to these people and those more profoundly changed by their depression can be useless, or worse, destructive to their self-esteem. Telling me to dunk a basketball is far less useful than telling Shaquille O’Neil to do so. Yes, it really can be impossible for those in clinical depression to function in a normal way. They may be able to describe their situation, or maybe not. Even if they can, we may not be able to understand what they are going through.

I had problems believing that during the pandemic many children were having a mental health crisis, since I knew as a child I probably would have adjusted well to this pandemic. I didn’t consider I had learned ways to cope with situations these children had not experienced. Also, growing up in the country, I wasn’t as dependent on other children.

So often we are told things, but really don’t accept them because we don’t pay close enough attention to see their value or truth. A saying I heard, and really didn’t pay much attention to, was that people are more attractive when they smile. One commercial got my attention this is really true. Since then, I have found this to be true.

Let’s listen more, and smile more too.

  • Rodney Verdine, of Ottawa, is retired as the assistant director at the La Salle County Detention Home, but also had been a probation officer. He can be reached at newsroom@mywebtimes.com