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Reach in and reach out: knowing when it's time to ask for help

2.5 min read

Farm operators can find themselves overwhelmed by stress, but like many, it’s rare for them to reach out for help when they need it most.

Barriers to reaching out

Psychologist and retired Canadian naval officer Dr. Amir Georges Sabongui, aka, Dr. Georges, explains that someone might not reach out because they:

  • Believe there’s no access to support.

  • Think a professional couldn’t possibly know what they’re going through.

  • Feel that those close to them don’t really want to know how they’re doing.

  • May be unaware they would benefit from support: “The biggest blind spot in the world is yourself. The one thing that an eyeball cannot see is itself,” Dr. Georges says.

He also points out that men are less likely to reach out, especially those who consider themselves to be strong. “When asked, ‘strong men’ will say they’re fine,” Dr. Georges says. “Take it from a guy who’s ‘fine' – we're not fine.”

Brain sprain

Dr. Georges recalls a mission in his previous military career that devolved into complete chaos, putting his team in peril. Despite his best efforts to solve the situation, it just worsened, causing him to become “unglued.”

Sometimes, allowing others to reach in is the first step to becoming more self-aware.

Those who counted on him the most urged him to seek counselling, explaining they’d never seen him lose control of himself like this before and that his erratic behaviour, poor judgment and bad decision-making was putting their safety at risk.

It was a real punch to his ego. His identity and sense of self-worth had been built on the idea he was the pillar everyone could lean on during a crisis. And yet, he was hearing that the biggest danger to his team’s safety wasn’t those shooting at them; it was him and his reduced judgment.

“That’s a bad day at the office. Why didn’t I see it?” he asks.

Dr. Georges’ example may seem extreme, but it could happen to anyone who’s very stressed and tasked with important decision-making. The reason he couldn’t see he was struggling, and indeed why it might be hard for anyone under extreme stress is what could be considered a “brain sprain.”

“If you sprain your ankle, you’re the first to know you’re injured. But if you ‘sprain your brain’ you might be the last to know, because the tool needed to diagnose the problem is injured,” Dr. Georges says.

Allow others to reach in

Sometimes, allowing others to reach in is the first step to becoming more self-aware and recognizing you may benefit from mental health support. Few people reach out, so it’s vital to listen to the judgment of others, the ones closest to you, who are telling you something might be wrong. Allowing others to reach in just might pave the way to being able to reach into yourself.

From a Rooted in Resilience article by Richard Kamchen.

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