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Tuesday, August 8, 2017


By. Matthew Williams, Administrative Coordinator
Summer is a time of adventure, bringing with it a whirlwind of outdoor activities. If you live in Greater Pittsburgh, you know all too well that it’s a time of unpredictable weather. (You put your car heater on in the morning, but by the time you're driving home, you've flipped over to the air conditioner.) If you’re like me, you may end up with a massive sunburn, wondering why you did not break out that black market SPF 150 suntan lotion. #Ouch! You can always point us out. We’re the ones walking around looking like a reverse raccoon. We’ve burned our faces, but we’re pale around the eyes because we were rocking our sunglasses! It’s easy to forget the sunblock, but one thing we never seem to forget is to put on our shades. In fact, we seem to do it instinctively.

Wearing sunglasses represents more than a fashion statement meant to protect our eyes from the harmful rays of the sun. They represent our desire to protect ourselves from harm. If you think about, we are constantly keeping ourselves out of harm’s way. Prime example, if you remember from the last blog, “Parenting Series Blog – Issue #1, The Hunt for Happiness: Brush Back”, you may recall a certain nine year old taking a ball to the face. After that particular incident, do you think he moves his face out of the ball’s path? Um—yes! I’ve seen him do it. The point is, when we are cognizant of potential harm, we take preventive measures to protect ourselves.

So what does all of this have to do with mental health? Indulge me while I explain. We humans are controlling by nature. We like to control what happens to us and around us. (Some, maybe a little more than others!) Among many things, we control our schedules, our diets and our exercises. We work on keeping our bodies healthy—which is fantastic. However, one thing that many of us fail to exercise control over is the state of our mental health. We indulge all facets of life yet we fail to fine tune what makes us who we are! Although we’ve made great strides forward, seeking the proper treatment for mental health concerns still has a stigma attached to it. It's up to all of us to change that.

Human beings are also social creatures. However, we can find ourselves living in a fa├žade. Why? We often project what others believe to be happiness. We ignore the turmoil inside ourselves, in hopes that it "just goes away," or because we fear what people will say or think about us. We suppress the pain within and embrace the artificial happiness we have constructed for ourselves. In essence, we ignore our innate responsibility to protect ourselves from the adverse outcomes bred out of unhealthy beliefs, thoughts and actions. It's like forgetting the sunscreen. If you do, there will be a painful price to pay.

The purpose of #Mentalshades is to change how we approach emotional and mental distress…to learn not to cling to our out-of-control anxieties, depression, trauma, unhealthy habits, etc., but instead, to take the steps necessary to protect ourselves from harm. We go about our lives forgetting about the one thing we should constantly be protectingour mental health. It should be something we do before we become emotionally scarred, broken and unhealthy. When we created #MentalShades, we did so with the thought of sporting our shades proudly. Proud to freely acknowledge that none of is perfect, that we all have our struggles. Proud that the shades are not a mask, but protection.

At Samaritan Counseling Center we are here to help you bring your best self forward, to propel yourself into great and joyous things. So when you rock your shades, don’t do it merely as a mask for you to hide behind, nor as a fashion statement. Let it be a reminder that every part of you is a work in progress. Every part of you deserves to be healthy. Because at the end of the day, you deserve to smile. (Like laughter, smiles are contagious, too.) So have courage and rock those mental shades!

We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments and TWEET a photo of yourself rocking your shades!