Make mental health and wellness a priority

Researchers say a strong healthy multigenerational family structure like those found in Bangladesh and many other countries that have maintained the family traditions are the healthiest for children. There are always adults around other than just the two parents to love the children, respond to their needs, and keep them safe. The parents are supported by other family members. There is a better chance for the child to get their needs met with more aunts, uncles, and grandparents around. The parents can have ‘time off duty.' Although many one or two-parent families get everything right, a multigenerational family has better chances.

The first three years are the most crucial determinants of the mental health of our children. The interactions with caregivers at this time are critical to setting the brain stage for dealing with stress, fear, abandonment, and trust. These are basic relationship foundations that affect us for the rest of our lives. Later in life, we may wonder why we have strong reactions to what our friends say, the spouse does or the children do. These have their roots in our early childhood interactions before we can even speak. Many experiments have been done that can predict from two years of age if there will be mental health difficulties later in life.

At school, children show behaviors that may look like stress, need for attention and love, or sadness and withdrawal. When children have stressed it is hard to think, focus on schoolwork, and feel good or confident about themselves. That is why good schools make sure to employ counselors and make mental health and wellness a priority. Children are taught explicitly how to focus their brains, use self-talk, be assertive, identify emotions in others, handle strong emotions and solve conflicts. We want our students ready for the workplace, experience happy relationships and healthy families.

World Mental Health Day was observed on 10 October. What do you think of when we say ‘mental health’? Many think of a crazy person as someone who is talking to themselves or screaming. These are extremes. There are an estimated 10% of people who have some mental health difficulty. They may be more sad, angry, or worried than most people. They may be quietly suffering in your family, find life miserable, complain all the time and get angry too much. They may feel deep despair, hopelessness, and full of sorrow for months on end. They may be worried and fearful and feel anxious often and in many situations.

Nowadays we have so many books, TV shows, YouTubes, apps, and therapists showing us ways to find balanced lives and good mental health. If our leaders, grandparents, or parents were hurt and stressed and this has affected us, there are ways we can heal. Loving approval for who you are, not what others want you to be, feels wonderful. Repeated self-affirmations such as, ‘ I love and approve of myself’, smiles, noticing the good in others instead of what is wrong is a better direction. Doing something kind for others each day, exercise, restorative sleep, even a small amount of time to reflect, stop and remember or visualize something nice that happened to you can make a difference. Other things we can do is notice flowers, birds, and plants. A small-time to meditate just focusing on the feeling of your breath passing the nostrils in and out will calm the brain.

At International School Dhaka the whole school wore purple to support World Mental Health Day. We told the children about mental health and how some people do not feel good. They may be more sad, angry, and worried than most people. A good way to help them is to always smile, be kind and help our school be a comfortable place to learn and grow. One of our school missions is to embrace positive values, encourage empathy and reflection. We also hosted a live Facebook discussion with Farin Daulah from One Circle entitled, Let’s Talk About Mental Health.

Imagine World Mental Health growing to heal the towns, villages, cities, countries, streets, houses, and hearts of all people. Do your part. Take care of each other. Enjoy real peace, real harmony, and real joy in life.

* Vivian Huizenga is Primary Counselor, International School Dhaka