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STRONGER TOGETHER: Understanding ‘emotional first aid’ and why we should use it

Last updated: 22/08/2022
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"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses taking our emotional health as seriously as our physical health

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

It can be hard to talk about being in pain. I’m not talking about the pain we feel when we stub our toe or fall over and get injured – that we recognise immediately.

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

We seek out help when our body is injured.

But when our emotional and mental wellbeing is in pain, we tend to ignore it until it piles up and we start to breakdown.

In the TEDTalk Why we all need to practice emotional first aid, psychologist Dr. Guy Winch provides a terrific exploration around the preference we place on our physical health. With an anecdote about breaking your leg, he brilliantly highlights the stark and arguably bizarre way we brush off psychological pain.

You know when your leg is broken, other people can see that it is broken, there are professionals ready to help you identify the injury and provide advice on how long it will take to heal. No one judges you or tells you to ‘walk it off’.

And yet, how often do we tell ourselves or does someone say ‘try not to worry about it’ if you’re worried or upset about something?

This type of response must stop. Our emotional wellbeing is just as serious as our physical health.

We need to give ourselves permission to feel, to notice pain in others and the compassion to consider what it is like walking in someone else’s shoes.

We’re human beings, and we can’t just put a band aid on everything. Sometimes we need to stop and talk about what we’re going through, sometimes we need to let others help us.

We can’t predict how long it will take to mend, or when things will be better; but when we work together, we know things will indeed get better.

We can apply first aid and stop the ‘emotional bleeding’. If you need help, reach out to a friend or a profession and talk about it. Or if you know someone is going through a hard time, give them a call, ask how they are today and let them know how much you appreciate them and you are always ready to listen.

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