Irrespective of who we are, each one of us is part of society. We share the environment, the resources either natural or man-made and the way each one of us manages the environment and the resources therein will affect other people and the generations to come. Though this can be a huge problem, however, there are ways to ensure that the negligence of other people we share the environment with doesn’t ruin our efforts towards making sure our space is safe enough for our survival and that of the coming generation.
This article aims to increase awareness of how mental health can help us achieve a sustainable society.
Now let’s talk about the keywords.
The WHO in 2014 defined Menta Health as a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
The word sustainability is derived from the Latin word sustinere, which means to hold up, and holding up anything require strength, now imagine the amount of strength that will be needed to hold up the society; a lot, right? That’s why I believe achieving a sustainable society requires all hands need to be on deck, everyone in one way or the other has something positive to contribute towards a sustainable society.
There are several definitions of what a sustainable society is however what I understand from all these definitions is that; Sustainable ensures continuity of life (humans, animals, plants), positive cultural practices and positive human behaviours. For continuity to be ensured, the environment (the society) has to be safe; physically, economically/financially, socially, emotionally and spiritually too.
I will define a sustainable society as a process of ensuring an environment safe enough to ensure continuity of lives (humans, animals and plants), positive cultures and behaviours. It is a process because it requires a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve it plus, these actions have to be done continuously, for it to be achieved.
There are several aspects that contribute towards a sustainable society;
Energy and natural resources sustainability: energy and other natural resources conservation and management
Environmental sustainability: how we care for the environment.
Economic/financial sustainability: it involves job creation, financial management.
Social sustainability: it involves the impact of what we do on the people in our environment.
Spiritual sustainability: though I came up with this term myself, I feel it is very needed especially with the extent of h@tred in the world right now.
Spiritual sustainability involves the ability to continuously positively pass on religious knowledge and practices to the younger generation and also help them become aware of people with other religious believes and the need to tolerate them.
So how can mental health contribute towards a sustainable society?
As a person with much belief in the phrase “catch them young”, in my opinion for a continuum in the attainment of a sustainable society, we have to involve the children in our lives irrespective of their age. As adults, even if we are not parents, we all have children in our lives, nieces, nephews, the children we teach and so on and irrespective of our relationship with these children, they learn a lot from us. Our actions and reactions to the words we say, all of it is how children learn from us.
Plus, sometimes these children will not have their parents around them, for reasons like death, sickness, travelling amongst others. I want us all as adults to be able to help nurture positive and healthy habits in the younger children despite not being parents to these children.
Now, looking at the definition of mental health by the world health organization, it laid emphasis on individuals realizing their potentials, coping with normal stress, and making contributions to society.
Steps to take towards contribution
1. Prepare their minds
Firstly, for anyone especially children to think they can contribute towards achieving a sustainable society, you have to help them realise their potentials (not yours), observe the things they are good at, activities they carry out easily, and some of their interests that are positive, if you need assistance with helping them realise their potentials, get them registered for self-awareness classes, you will be amazed at how becoming self-aware will help them become more aware of the things they are capable of.
2. Tool them up
After these children most have realized their potentials, it is important that you provide resources that will serve as a catalyst to help activate their acting process. The tools could be books, educational videos, Bootcamp, courses and more, just anything that will teach them more. This will help them concentrate on areas from which they can positively contribute to the success of society.
3. Provide Support
This is when you teach them how to cope with stress because in the process of them learning their discovered potentials, they will go through some form of stress which could result from late-night reading, difficulty with assimilation or not getting the expected results. Help them realise that all that they feel or are going through is normal, you can tell them stories of how you also went through a similar situation, provide them with coping mechanisms it could be praying, watching a motivational video and if after several efforts it doesn’t work, seek help! Seek help from specialists (psychologists, psychotherapists), whom they can speak with and help them feel better.
Now, it’s time for them to contribute towards ensuring a sustainable society, and in my opinion, this can be done in two ways; either through the potentials, you have helped them discover and act on or through modelling which can help teach our children the different ways they could contribute towards ensuring a sustainable society.
For the potentials they have and have developed, teach them how to can contribute towards economic/financial sustainability; how they can provide jobs with what they have and how they can manage their finances so as to ensure the business they have created can scale up and get bigger. And if they want to work for other people, teach them how to cope with their co-workers and other problems they might face at work.
Children are great imitators so, give them something great to imitate- Phillip Johnson
There are certain aspects of ensuring sustainability that need to model. So here, I will list out different aspects of sustainability and how we can be model it to the children around us;
Environmental sustainability: how do we care for our environment as adults? do we litter the floor? do we throw dirt in water bodies? do we burn our garbage ourselves or do we let the waste management board handle it?
Economic/Financial sustainability: as adults with children in our lives, is your job/business legal? Because when your business/job is illegal, it means the business is either harming (health-wise) or stealing money from others, and we want a safe society. How do we spend money? Do you spend lavishly? Are you big on philanthropy or like to help people in need with your money?
Energy and natural resources sustainability: how do you manage electricity, food, water, clothes? Do you switch off the bulb and other appliances when they are not in use? How do we react when our children leave the bulb on? Is food wastage a regular thing in your house? How do we react when our children waste food? Can you gauge the people you want to serve with the food you cook? Do you leave your taps running when water is not in use? How do you react when our children waste water?
Social sustainability: what are your values especially relating to how you treat other people in the society? how do you relate with your family members? How do you relate to your in-laws? Your domestic workers? Do you show up when your family members need help? Do you show up for community events? Do you have friends? What kind of friends do you keep? How do you react when you see other people being maltreated? How do you react when your children treat others badly?
Spiritual sustainability: what are your religious values? What is your relationship with those values? How do you contribute towards the growth of your belief society? How do you intend to pass it on to your kids? How do you treat people with different religious beliefs?
In conclusion, we all have a role to play in ensuring the contribution of mental health towards ensuring a sustainable society. A lot of us already struggle with energy conservation, environmental management, social sustainability, tolerating people with different spiritual views amongst others. However, I bet we do not want our children to also go through the same struggle or worse of we are going through to ensure a sustainable society because, without it, we might not be able to ensure the safety of the future generation. Let’s get to work and contribute our quota towards a society with safe continuity.