Having a tough week, or even a tough year, does not constitute a mental health issue. This includes the exhausted, over stressed stay-at-home parents, performers of all types, and, well, you and me.
The overwrought claims of mental health issues, both by the person involved and certain politicians and media, are, like so much of what is going on today, agenda driven, not fact and circumstance driven.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
Henry Fonda, a WWII vet and one of the greatest stage and screen actors of his time, would vomit every time before he walked onto the stage. Fonda, the winner of 2 Academy Awards an Emmy, a Tony and numerous other honors, would throw up each and every time. Did that mean that he was suffering from mental illness? No, not at all. He simply had something going on in his head and he was dealing with it. Successfully.
A hitter in baseball in a two-month slump does not indicate the need for consultation with a mental health pro, drug therapy, government intervention, or political and media hand wringing about the shortage of or crisis in mental health care. The same goes for the exhausted, overstressed Mom, the soldier who well and truly does not want to go on yet another night patrol into enemy territory, or performers who are “stressed out” by being in the limelight. And Mom continues to care for her family, the soldier goes on patrol, and the performers perform.
All it means is that we humans have stuff that we need to deal with. “DWI”, deal with it, as my wife would say.
The vast majority of the time that certain politicians and the media are putting a spotlight on someone who is said to be dealing with mental health issues, what is happening, if indeed anything is happening at all, is that this someone is dealing with mental stresses, which, when dealt with, make us stronger. Just as dealing with physical stress, often called work or exercise, when done correctly, makes us stronger.
The brain works like a muscle; when we exercise it, and sometimes exercise it hard, it gets stronger.
Not nearly everything strange or unwanted that goes on in our heads indicates a mental health issue that needs to be addressed by drugs and doctors. Quite often the mental issue we are dealing with is solved by exercising mental discipline. Champion gymnast Simone Biles, 24, is a current and perfect example. She came into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as not only the favorite in several events in women’s gymnastics, but as a sentimental and overall favorite; people love and admire Ms. Biles. After some preliminary event performances where she did well by other standards but not well by hers, she self-diagnosed herself as having the “twisties.” She became temporarily unable to know where her body was in space; awkward for most of us, and potentially dangerous for a world class gymnast performing strenuous and complicated aerial routines. Contrary to what you have read over and over in the media, this was not a mental health issue; she needed to let the twisties pass before she could safely and competently compete again. Showing both patience and toughness, she decided to compete in the last women’s gymnastics event of this Olympics, taking a Bronze Medal on the balance beam. She showed courage, loyalty to her teammates, patience and excellence throughout.
Go back with me to the late 80s and early 90s when baseball slugger Matt Williams, AKA “Matt the Bat” and “The Big Marine,” played under Dusty Baker, the Manager for the San Francisco Giants. One year Williams was in a terrible batting slump. Try as he might, he could not get out of the slump that had extended for weeks. Slumps like this are not at all unusual, but they hurt the team, and are terribly frustrating for the player. One day Dusty came up to his struggling star and said, “Try easier.” That did it. Did that make Baker a mental health professional? Oh, hardly. But it did make him a great manager.
Naomi Osaka, 23, the second ranked female tennis player and the highest paid female athlete in the world, is no Simone Biles. Osaka, after being questioned at a press conference about her relatively poor play on clay courts, withdrew from the clay court French Open, in significant part as a way of avoiding post match press conferences, while citing mental health issues. Her claims of having mental health issues were loudly and often repeated and supported in the media.
Shortly after withdrawing from the French Open, one of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments worldwide, citing mental health issues, including depression, Osaka appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and other major magazines, along with appearing in a reality TV show and a being the model, the image, for a Barbie. Showing a photo of the SI Swimsuit issue cover, Osaka tweeted,“First Haitian and Japanese woman on the cover.” Behavior that is the opposite of what anyone fighting depression and unable to participate in a post game press conference would even dream about attempting. I get it that Ms. Osaka had a hard time dealing with criticism; I clearly struggle with that as well. But it is disingenuous to hide behind a claim of depression and mental health issues. She may very well have been having a hard time handling the press’ thoughts about her performance on clay. But that’s part of life. Athletes, politicians, actors, and the rest of us need to deal with issues like that, either well or poorly, without hiding behind mental health excuses.
Okay Will, you seem to be bucking the trend here. Don’t you believe that we have mental health issues here in the US? Of course I know that we have mental health issues here, as I believe that we do globally. I am also convinced that claiming that every issue of mental stress, or being mentally tired, or not being mentally up to par to be a mental health issue is part of an overall campaign, a campaign to:
Allow me to share a fun scene from Crocodile Dundee, a 1986 movie about an Australian outbacker from Walkabout Creek, set both in Australia and New York City. Crocodile’s love interest is Sue Charlton, a full on New York City woman. Sue is telling Croc about a friend who was seeing a psychiatrist. Dundee didn’t know what a psychiatrist was, or why anyone needed to see one.
Sometimes it is as simple and as difficult as gritting one’s teeth, using mental discipline to deal with the discomfort, the pain, and overcome the problem. Marines are fond of saying, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” Here is at least one case where the jarheads are right…:).
We’ll close this part of our episode with a truly happy story from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. High jumper friends and competitors, Mutaz Essa Barshim, 30, from Qatar and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, 29, both cleared the highest bar, but when it came to deciding a winner, the two Olympic high jumpers opted not to take it to a tie-breaker.
Instead, they asked to share the gold medal — prompting cheers beyond their home countries of Qatar and Italy.
During the long competition, both top competitors executed the first six jumps up to 2.37 meters (7 feet 8 inches). Both then attempted to match the Olympic record of 2.39 meters for sole ownership of the title. However, after three attempts, neither succeeded. The two athletes were then approached by a Games official. “Can we have two golds?” Barshim asked.
The official nodded, prompting the overjoyed athletes to high five, before Tamberi embraced Barshim in an elated display of celebration. Despite the ban on spectators due to Covid restrictions, loud cheers rang out from the small crowd in the stadium as the two men ran toward their coaches and teammates. Tamberi, overcome with emotion, collapsed on the track. In the stands, both coaches broke down in tears.
Respect and cooperation. Pass it along.
We all have the personal responsibility to DWI, to deal with it.
Speaking of personal responsibility, it does not stand alone; the two main and interdependent principles at Revolution 2.0 are:
1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.
Where do you stand? What are you going to do? Remember, it does not matter where you stand if you don’t do anything. You can start by subscribing to these episodes, and encouraging others to subscribe with you.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:1.
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you listen to podcasts.
Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.