Mental health: the pandemic within the pandemic
Psychotherapist launches new book, says it is ‘okay not to be okay’
A clinical psychotherapist, consultant and life coach, Shane Mark Tull is a Caribbean man who is “committed to improving the psychosocial development of humanity as it relates to individuals and communities everywhere”. Tull recently launched his book, The Mental Health Pandemic, which, he says, explores the premise that “mental health has become the pandemic within the pandemic”.
“[We] need to observe mental health, not as abstract concepts, [but] rather as an exercise of support and trust, and as a collective process of healing. This book is a guide that gives us insights and resources to identify what mental health looks like in ourselves and those around us. The aim [of] this is to explore the meaning of mental health in our community, giving voice to our experiences as we navigate the mental health space. COVID-19 has demanded renewed attention to the issue of mental health as it relates to capacity building and the delivery of [services] to marginalised communities,” Tull told The Gleaner.
A Guyanese who has worked in his homeland for the last two years as a clinical consultant for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), he was a team member at the CDC’s mental health initiative, providing positive clinical outcomes as the mental health chief in the PUSH programme.
He shared that the pandemic had a personal effect on his own mental health as it relates to managing his personal life.
“I experienced anxiety and a sense of grief. As I see people I love and care for succumb to this fearless virus, I decided to offer a body of work on how mental health has become the pandemic within the pandemic. I want [people] to understand that it’s okay not to be okay. Also, it’s okay to ask for help and get the support they need,” he explained.
Acknowledging that within the Caribbean, mental health is not a subject that is willingly and freely approached, Tull noted, however, that changes in the mindset are indeed taking place.
“In the Caribbean, there have been some changes in the last 10 years, and people are coming forward and talking about depression, suicide, failed relationship, [and the] drudgery of life. People are responding. One of the things the pandemic did is that it has crystallised the importance of mental help and, especially in the Caribbean, they are talking more about mental health,” he shared.
The goal of The Mental Health Pandemic is to offer a book that “anyone can pick up and read and, at the end of it, feel like they have more tools and a better understanding of what mental health is... and look at the mental health of people in our lives and how, collectively, we can support each other”.
As it regards the pandemic, Tull believes in following the science and getting vaxxed.
“I believe that the level of disinformation and misinformation has added to the collective anxiety of everyone. I encourage everyone to follow the science. Ask questions from competent medical professionals. It is imperative [that] we encourage the people we care about to be vaccinated and take all precautions to protect themselves from severe illness and hospitalisation,” Tull urged.
He stressed that persons can “do things to give [them] a sense of control over their lives. He listed exercise, a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in supportive and fun activities with friends and family.
“Go for a walk on the beach ... reach out to a neighbour. Let us be committed to taking care of each other during these trying times ... . Most importantly, #begentletoyourself.”