The mental health of our nation

“Dr. Jones, I am so confused and frustrated about what is occurring in our State and Nation now…all of the shootings, the recent flooding…I just am so frustrated. I have family in Houston that are still recovering from all of that disaster; the Las Vegas thing; the recent terroristic threat occurring in one of my children’s school in Harlingen, and the questions and anxiety they are experiencing. I just do not know how to talk to them about all of this.”


We were recently taken aback again by the terroristic murders and shooting injuries of many, committed by an extremist in Las Vegas; the murder of a police officer at Texas Tech University; all adding to our suffering by the past attacks on our citizenry in Orlando, Florida, and in California; the attack on our congressmen in Washington D.C.; and this recent massacre in Las Vegas; joining the many, many attacks we have had on our nation by such individuals and groups; particularly since the 9/11/2001 attack on the twin towers of New York City and our Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

We are saddened about these heinous crimes, for the victims and the families of those left behind. These acts are an attack on all of us who share the American way of life, as well as those individuals of other nations who have equally been attacked. The Nations Mental Health has been brutally attacked; as we face the anxieties and fears that such attacks perpetrate.

Yes, I believe there does exist a national mental health, as a part and parcel of all of us who reside in our Nation; and not only affects our psychological health but our social and spiritual selves as well…three of our “selves,” that along with our physical selves, that makes up our entire existence as human beings…and all of us together make up our society.

When we are attacked we come together as a united social “being” to acknowledge the attack, comfort one another, and work to insure that we are not attacked any further. Doctor Carl Jung, a renowned psychiatrist, once postulated the theorem of the “Collective Consciousness,” which he postulated that we humans not only share a common human DNA or history, but a collective psychic, dating back to the beginning of human kind.

We are not only bound by our ethnicity and nationality, but through our memories as well. As citizens of the United States we share in the concept of liberty and freedom, and it really tears us apart when these realities are threatened and attacked. Yet the American spirit is extremely resilient…when threatened and attacked we come together in a unified way, regardless of our societal ranking, ethnicity, political affiliation or other stations in life.

And this has held true since the founding of our nation those many years ago. In the era of our Great Depression, wherein fear and anxiety ran high, it was our President Delano Roosevelt who said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” We face many challenges as a nation along our lives journey, and we must always “press on.”

Over the past few months our nation has faced many challenges; the aftermath of the flooding in the Houston and environ areas of our state; the hurricanes in Florida and our East Coast; in addition to the massacre in Las Vegas…all such events that interrupt our sense of order and security. Stephanie F. Dailey, Ed.D., writing in a very recent article in the American Counseling Association newsletter has offered us tips to assist in dealing with the recent Las Vegas event, as well as other events we may encounter, and they are:

n Attend to self care. One cannot take care of others unless they first take care of themselves. We must be attentative to our physical needs by eating properly, getting enough sleep and rest, to exercise, and maintain a normal daily routine.

n Pay attention to your emotional health. Be aware that a wide range of feelings during these difficult times are common. Others are also experiencing emotional reactions and may need you there for them to help put their thoughts and associated feelings in order.

n Recognize when you or those around you may need extra support. It is most common that many individuals, from young to aged, experience stress reactions when exposed to natural disasters and mass violence; even when exposed through the media. Signs of distress are expressed through ones behaviors; such as clinging children with extreme emotional reactions; marked anxiety and a need for retribution with adults; etc.

n Avoid overexposure to media. Not to downplay the importance of staying informed, the media portrayals of shootings resulting in mass deaths and injuries have been shown to cause acute stress and even post-traumatic stress symptoms. One must limit exposure to the news and take a break from news sources.

n Maintain contact with family and friends. They can offer you emotional support to help with the difficult times.

n Focus on your strength base. How have you handled anxiety and stress in the past? Maintain practices that you have found to provide emotional relief.

n Talk to others as needed. It is always important to ask for help if you are having trouble recovering, everyday tasks seem difficult to manage.

Even we living in the Rio Grande Valley have been affected by this year’s natural disasters and the shootings in Las Vegas and at Texas Tech University; there are those whose lives have been directly impacted by them. The handling of a recent threat incident in a Harlingen School was handled in a most professional and thorough manner, and is an example of the care and concern we have for the safety and security of our youth…they are to be commended for their actions.

We must continue to help in alleviating any fear and anxiety our young people have.

If you or a family member or friend are experiencing feelings of anxiety, fear, or other emotional feelings you may have problems dealing with; be insured that help is always available to assist you in dealing with it.

The Tropical Texas Behavioral Health Center offers a 24/7 Crisis Line; 1-877-289-7199. For you Veterans there is a 24/7 Crisis Line you may contact; 1-800-273-8255. I suggest you give them a call if you are experiencing emotional stress. Until Next Time, Stay Healthy My Friends!