What would you expect to see if you threw a pebble in a pond? You would likely see a ripple in the water, extending wider than the diameter of the pebble. Seeing a pebble drop into a pond and create ripples is always mesmerizing. It’s amazing to observe the concentric circles slowly expanding outwards from the point of impact. It’s a fascinating example of how energy can travel through water, allowing us to watch something so small cause an effect so large. The ripple caused by your pebble will eventually spread beyond its initial size to create an area much larger than the stone you threw in. The intricate pattern created on the surface is a reminder of how even a tiny action can have far-reaching effects.
Throwing a larger rock into the water would lead to an entirely different impression than with a pebble. With a sturdy rock, you could expect to see larger waves ripple outward and a bigger splash that carries far more energy. The size and strength of the waves created will depend on how large the rock is and how quickly it was thrown. Imagine that the rock creates a temporary disturbance in an otherwise tranquil lake, like a momentary balance disruption. The change can be quite drastic; where before you saw small ripples only a few feet away from each side of the impact zone, now you might see much larger ones reaching far beyond that point. Such an imposing presence would influence its environment for some time before fading away into nothing.
Health care providers have an incredibly important job of caring for patients, but the difficulty and effectiveness of treatments vary greatly depending on several factors. Comparing health challenges to pebbles or rocks can help provide perspective for understanding issues like the speed at which health issues develop and the scope of impact. Compared to a rock, a pebble may take less time to move and affect a smaller area, while the rock can quickly take over an entire landscape due to its mass. Understanding this element of health challenges is essential to understand best how they will ultimately impact a patient’s life and that of their family, friends, colleagues, and community. As such, every health provider must keep this in mind when developing care plans with each patient.
I have been a primary care physician for over a decade and have been blessed to care for upwards of four generations of one family. More recently, I have pivoted my career and focused more on a holistic, system approach to care by adding coaching to the services I provide. I have witnessed firsthand the impact of the pebble versus the rock in my patient’s life. Unless one looks deeper and goes beyond the surface, you will likely be unable to understand the scope of the impact.
For years, I have spoken publicly about the need for us to take mental health and its effects seriously. We cannot overlook its critical importance as it is the foundation of physical and community health. Ignoring the mental aspect puts us in danger of succumbing to psychological and physical damage. We must pursue understanding and seek solutions for mental health issues, or we will be doomed to suffer from their consequences regardless of our desire for betterment. Understanding, accepting, and acting upon our needs is a necessary and worthwhile task, but it will not be sufficient if we do not extend this same obligation to others. Mental health is not something we can easily ignore or brush aside; conquering it requires concerted effort and commitment from everyone so that finally, after all these years, we can make a real dent in this crisis.
With the increase in mental health challenges over the past few years, it is more important than ever to understand how this affects society. While it is easy to think of mental health issues affecting those on the margins of our world, the reality is that these struggles could happen to anyone—and often do. External appearances cannot recognize many individuals with mental health concerns. They can look like anyone attending school, shopping at the grocery store, or leading a community organization or business enterprise. This challenge speaks to false images and perceptions of this health issue which must be addressed for progress. Unlearning narrow conceptions and creating dialogue around modern-day realities concerning mental health issues and their effects is essential for furthering social understanding of this crucial matter.
Mental health crises are a global issue that cannot be addressed with individual solutions. We need to take a systemic approach to combat this epidemic, changing not only the environment of those suffering from mental health issues but also attempting to alter the systems and societies that cause such profound distress in communities worldwide. Doing so requires us to look at the problem holistically, examining any policies or cultural attitudes that may contribute to mental anguish and shifting our perspective away from individuals and towards viewing mental health within its collective context. By focusing on managing mental health at a societal level, we can improve emotional well-being at all stages of life — for ourselves and others.
For system-wide reform to become a reality, we must have governmental leaders who recognize and understand mental health issues. Without this knowledge, legislation to help and protect those potentially affected by mental illness may do more harm than good. This leader must be aware of their perspectives, beliefs, and mindsets when deliberating on policy changes. This will ensure policies constantly evolve to reflect the needs of those in need. By taking a holistic view of how social systems are interrelated, we can understand why specific public issues arise in the first place and gain crucial insights into possible solutions. Therefore, having informed and understanding leaders in government about mental health is undeniably essential for progress toward successful reform legislative reform that reflects the needs of all parties involved.
Leaders and those at the front lines of patient interaction face a daunting challenge when understanding the full scope of mental health issues. So much needs to be done to understand the true impact of these conditions truly. Once an understanding is gained, action must be taken to make meaningful impacts. It’s not enough for leaders and front-line workers to recognize mental health as a priority; it requires deep commitment, dedication, and consistent effort to keep pushing forward even when progress appears slow or nonexistent. We have all seen how much progress can be made when society mobilizes around a single cause — we must all now strive with the same determination towards establishing successful efforts that treat mental health holistically and with care.
So, in conclusion, let us spin the pebble versus the rock analogy the other way around. Will our solutions have the impact of the pebble, or will we start making waves and have the impact of the rock? Quite frankly, I pick the latter, and it’s time that we collectively begin making waves.
Tomi Mitchell is a family physician and founder, Dr. Tomi Mitchell Holistic Wellness Strategies. She can be reached on Twitter @DrTomiMitchell, Facebook, Pinterest, and Clubhouse.