On Mental Health and Hope: We cannot lose this generation.

On Mental Health and Hope: We cannot lose this generation.

“We cannot lose this generation.” Dr. Kevin Churchwell, president and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital recently spoke with McKinsey & Company on the pandemic’s impact on children’s health. At first glance, my stomach braced for the same uncomfortable lurch that occurs each time I see or hear “children” and “pandemic” in the same sentence.

In reading through Dr. Churchwell’s take on how we need a continuum of care built upon technology and improved communication for our children, “hope” comes to mind – something not mentioned but implied. I think we must keep “hope” as our guiding star for how we address the pandemic trauma we are presently experiencing-especially for our children. Trauma, like hope, is relevant only in the mind of the beholder. I am not an expert on either but have studied mental health and the brain’s dynamics for a couple of decades. I also have had the lived experience of both.

After 40 years in health care and health information technology (IT), my focus has turned to mental health or more specifically – “brain health” – a nod to the fact that our brain has “plasticity” or can be shaped by external factors. I dodge any reference to “comparable pain” but know I have experienced enough pain to change how my brain reacts to what it interprets to be “trauma”. This change in career focus is different somehow from past career pivots; it somehow feels like mental health– chose me.

In my mind, hope is not an emotion, a resource that can be stockpiled, nor a commodity that everyone has a specific amount of. I chose the best online definition from Miriam Webster:

“Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”

After some thought, I realize that the dominance of “hope” in my life–flanked by calm and a certain amount of peace–arrived only after I had spent time examining and “working” on (via counseling, research, and specific therapy) my own perspectives, biases, pain, and expectations.

Psychology Today has a well-stated take on hope:

“Research indicates that hope can help us manage stress and anxiety and cope with adversity. It contributes to our well-being and happiness and motivates positive action.

…. hopeful people do the other things that will help them move toward what they are hoping for.

Then, other positive emotions such as courage and confidence (self-efficacy), and happiness emerge. They become our coping strategy; the emotions crucial in helping us survive. They allow us to take a wider view, become more creative in our approach and problem solving, and retain our optimism.

It doesn’t ignore the trouble, or make excuses, or deny danger. It is not pretending. It is acknowledging the truth of the situation and working to find the best way to cope. It’s showing up and working through the hard stuff, believing that something better is possible. It’s resilient.”

Indeed. We all need that guiding star to convey hope, courage, and confidence to our children. There are reasons to be hopeful.

January 11, 2022|Brain Health, Children and Mental Health, Courage, COVID-19, Digital Mental Health, Hope, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Pandemic, Resilience

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