I Have a Dream That Your Mental Health Will Be Valued as Much as Your Physical Health

Years ago, I attended a series of meetings held by the Scattergood Foundation, where the learning was dynamic, energizing, and refreshing. I presented in one of those meetings and enjoyed the challenge of being as inspiring as the speakers I had heard. In one memorable session, the speaker addressed the impact of trauma, and he put out some questions for audience participation that was incredibly engaging but difficult. All my answers were wrong!

But it taught me a lot about trauma, especially the impact of trauma on the developing brain and how the youngest of infants will experience the most significant negative impact of a home with high-stress levels.

KenCrest’s Child Care SWIFT New Business Idea was created specifically to help children with developmental delays on the brink of expulsion, receive the help they need to stay in school. If a child is on the verge of expulsion, the school can send KenCrest a referral, and someone will spend time with that student, help identify concerns, and work with the teacher to develop strategies to help them.

Recently I have wondered about the causes of school and community violence, and recently read a book where the author called this behavior dysregulation, which is the inability to manage your feelings under stress. He said it is seen in preschools, where we have more school expulsions than any other grade. Who kicks a toddler out of school? Yet it happens in preschool every day. We can see dysregulation happening in adults too.

The author has a theory about this. He says that as a society, we have eliminated the things which helped regulate us, helped us manage difficulties, and survived enormous stresses. Previously, people lived in a community with those around them, were surrounded by family, and had family events and rituals. Most of us are not part of faith communities, where we used to be surrounded by people, habits, and routines with music, caring, and service; we are now isolated. He thinks that without the support of others, we are less able to process, are becoming more pessimistic, and don’t see the good when it is there. We are damaging our mental health, and then we act out.

We now know that mental health impacts physical health, and we have the data to prove that too much stress causes heart disease and diabetes. We are learning that dysregulation is increasing because our mental health is declining.

We need to consider how we recreate the support for our mental health so that we can go on to be physically healthy. We must support our mental health to regulate the new stresses better.

When you think about your life, what rituals and routines do you have that put you in the community? Who will do the little things like bring you a casserole or soup when you are under the weather? What brings you joy on a predictable basis so that you can sustain perspective in life?

When we live together in support of our neighbor, we live the best life. We are regulated to advance the lives of others, and I want to start a movement to strengthen and deepen that feeling of community within KenCrest.