May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US, and it’s also Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. Almost 43 million American adults have mental health issues that’s one in five people, and this worrying statistic is the same for children. In Britain, a quarter of the population will have mental health problems within a one year period, and the UK has one of the worst suicide rates in Europe.
Mental health problems are largely rooted in childhood trauma. Feelings of low self esteem and self worth, feelings of neglect and/or abandonment can have huge impacts on our relationships, as well as making us more inclined to be drug or alcohol dependent into adulthood.
Altamira Recovery has created a useful interactive project that investigates the relationship between feeling of shame, addiction and mental health, which aims to support anyone out there feeling like they can’t cope with life. This tool examines the difference between guilt and shame: guilt is a feeling that you’ve done something wrong, whereas shame is a deeper sense that you are wrong, period. As the website explains:
“Shame is often first felt early in life. It can be traced back to overly critical parenting, religious indoctrination, and emotional and sexual abuse. As children, we might’ve felt that disapproval was aimed at us as an individual, rather than at particular behaviours. We may have thought that part of who we are should be hidden from others. And beyond the realms of emotional abuse, physical mistreatment may have violated our boundaries, removed our privacy, and destroyed our ability to trust.”
It goes on:”To feel shame is to feel that we’re an irredeemable failure. In the darkness, shame can be hard to spot; it’s often confused with guilt, yet the two are very different. Shame can become so painful that we become mired in its misery. We feel that we’re a “nobody,” that we’re “worthless;” profoundly distanced from everyone else. Ultimately, shame is the experience of nothingness.”
Does this resonate with you? Maybe you know someone who feels this way? We highly recommend taking a look at Altamira’s interactive tool if any of this makes sense to you. Don’t suffer in silence! The British mental health association is also giving away a mindfulness meditation kit, now available for free download here.
Here are some powerful illustrations from the Altamira page, which were inspired by real quotes from former addicts who are now recovering. We wish them all the best.