Bridges and walls are often used metaphorically to indicate connectors and enablers on the one hand and barriers or boundaries on the other.
Bridges, walls and our mental wellbeing
Bridges can help us:
- get from A to B, quickly and efficiently
- have adventures and new experiences
- connect learning from past experiences and hopes for the future to present ways of thinking, being and doing
- connect to friends and family
- experience nature
- help other people by telling recovery and discovery stories
In sum, bridges are opportunities to move in directions which enrich, enable and empower us. We might need someone else to help us become aware of the bridges available to us or to help us build momentum. At other times curiosity, creativity and courage can be the driving forces in making a start and enjoying the journey.
In human relationships, there are times when barriers and boundaries are not just justifiable but essential. Being assertive, saying ‘no’ constructively and having ‘red lines’ are empowering for individuals and respecting each other’s social, emotional, spatial and other boundaries are basic tenants of a civilised society. Hate crimes, bullying, racism, misogyny and other kinds of anti-social behaviour are usually founded on deeply flawed assumptions and differences about one group’s superiority in relation to ‘the other’.
An individual’s ‘walls’ can include things like their personal blind spots, unconscious bias, limiting beliefs, behaviours or habits that appear fixed and hard to shift. Other ‘walls’ that can affect our mental health are things like injury, illness, trauma, loss and bereavement.
So, it’s important to identify, reflect upon and do something about the walls that restrict our mental health and wellbeing. Sometimes we need help from a skilled helper, such as an empathic, non-judgmental, supportive family member, a friend or colleague, whereas at other times a trained professional such as a coach, mentor or counsellor may be required.
Below are some examples of ‘walls’ which may be having an impact on your happiness, mental health or effectiveness in different contexts:
- Unresolved differences or misunderstandings with another person
- Losing your motivation and sense of purpose
- Holding limiting, self-sabotaging beliefs about your ability to make a difference: e.g., “There’s no point in trying, I’ll only fail”, “Stick to what I know and that way I won’t get hurt”
- Anxiety and fear: e.g., of success, of failure, of making mistakes, disapproval, embarrassment, being reprimanded, not being able to cope, not being good enough, being exposed as an ‘imposter’
- Actual walls or poor layout of physical space
- Underdeveloped or inflexible communication skills: e.g., in resolving conflicts, being assertive, regulating own emotions and moods, problem solving, activating curiosity
- Procrastination: i.e., getting started.
Let's identify our walls and build bridges to support our mental wellbeing
Questions you may wish to ask yourself, or work with another person on:
- Do any of these walls resonate with you at the moment?
- Can you recognise one of your own walls that is not stated or implied by the list above?
- Pick one wall to work on now
- What options do you have to make things better? Will you, for example, walk away from the wall, repair it, accept it as is or demolish it?
- What first step will you take?
- Who might help you?
On this last question, why not find out how Minds Ahead help students, staff, leaders and senior leaders in schools and colleges to build bridges to support their own mental health, support each other’s and sustain environments based on kindness, connection and collaboration:
Qualified mental health support in schools
At Minds Ahead, we offer a masters award to school leaders and a Mental Health Specialist postgraduate diploma to colleagues who support pastoral care. Both qualifications are studied online while working so that the knowledge and skills learnt are applied immediately within their setting and tailored to that establishment’s needs.
Our qualifications complement the support that is available in local areas. School and college leaders and staff will be empowered to support the mental health needs of the whole school community including developing knowledge of other local mental health services and clinicians.