Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Things I have learned as a mental health professional

the mind photo

Things I have learned as a mental health professional

1) Paedophiles come across as really affable, kind and caring.

Perhaps it helps society to feel safer by imagining paedophiles as ugly and monstrous. The truth is that the are adept at benig nurturing and incredibly fun. I remember working with one particular man who had been convicted of molesting and murdering a three year old girl in the seventies. He was always cheerful and compliant. I never ever forgot what his crime was but I was able to see this man as a person, separate from the offence he had committed. He had a budgie and he cared for this pet like nothing I’d ever seen before. Watching this and meeting this man certainly challenged my views on what paedophiles are all about. Think about it – it is these very qualities of affability and friendliness that help them to groom children and get them to be trusted. Scary thought.

2) You teach people how to treat you

We are constantly testing the boundaries with others, even when we don’t realise it. If we arrive late to meet someone and they don’t make a fuss, we lodge a mental note that tardiness is acceptable with that person. This person has inadvertently given us a message that we can ignore punctuality.

3) Knowledge is constantly changing and being updated. Always learning

We are constantly operating according to knowledge we have at the time. That doesn’t mean that new contradicting information won’t come to light. Theories change, new information emerges. We only know as much as we have discovered/fully understood. In the fifteen years that I ave been in mental health, many standard nuggets of wisdom have been challenged and disproved.

4) No one is all good or all bad.

It is easy to categorise murderers and criminals as evil but society rarely gets to spend time with these people. If they did, they would realise they have a sense of humour, feel fear and self doubt and want to be accepted. Of course, you get your psychopaths and sociopaths but rarely are people obviously ‘evil looking’. I have worked with murderers and rapists and they all had redeeming features. Of course, that doesn’t make what they did right, but it shows that life is never black and white.

5) Most (if not all) criminals, psychopaths and sociopaths have experienced abuse and/or neglect in their childhoods.

There are usually warning signs, delinquent behaviour, truancy, hurting animals, bullying… Most criminal behaviour is nurtured in childhood. Parents underestimate how much influence they have on the mental health of their children, especially when their treatment is abusive or cruel.

6) Most have people have quirky, crazy habits

We all seem to buy into the illusion of order and organisation that others present to us, all the while feeling inadequate and wishing we could be as on the ball. The thing is that the facade others present to us is just that – a facade. Most people live chaotic lives and desperately try to hide this. Stop hiding, accept that no one is perfect and you’ll be a lot happier in the process and keep your mental health intact!

7) Most people present a limited version of themselves to others

This point continues on from the above idea. When we feel the need to present to others something that we aren’t, it suggests non acceptance of who we fundamentally are. When you love and accept yourself, you are less likely to change who you are to be liked.

8) We live in the dark ages when it comes to our approach to mental health.

It is becoming an increasing issue and filters into so many other areas of life, yet there is still such a stigma around mental health and lack of funding/acknowledgement. We need to get with the programme. When mental health is not protected, society begins to fall apart – stress, anxiety and depression increase followed by disillusionment and apathy. When mental health is looked after, we make better decisions, we are happier and healthier and more productive as a society. What’s not to like?

9) Everyone suffers from fear and self doubt

We mistakenly believe that others are ‘together’ and confident all the time and compare this sturdy attitude to our own insecurities. This comparison only serves to make us feel worse and more inadequate. Well, suffer no more because we ALL feel inadequate at times. Join the club, you’re not alone.

10) Many people exist with seriously dysfunctional thinking patterns(personality disorder)

There are some people among us who have severely distorted thinking processes. Their ability to rationalise is stunted and their thinking is illogical and haywire. Often this comes from a dysfunctional upbringing. Be wary of people who seem ‘too nice’, do too much for you in the beginning of a relationship or seem to go through the motions of what they think people want from them. There is a certain amount of fake behaviour going on here. Some people with low emotional intelligence go through the motions with detached emotions in order to achieve the desired result – to reel you in. Once they have you emotionally, they change in a negative way. Other warning signs – rigid thinking, uptight, controlling and bossy, jealous and possessive – steer clear!! Mandy X   Photo by Robbert van der Steeg