Shirlee Smith | May is Mental Health Month

Published : Tuesday, May 16, 2017 | 12:26 PM

May is Mental Health Month, and perhaps we all need to check our barometers to see where we measure on life’s scale of conquering mind over matter.

It doesn’t take a licensed professional to tell us people are falling off balance. A seemingly unprovoked screaming attack discharged against the grocery clerk is a clue that things aren’t good.


“What you mean you ain’t open?” screeched the irate shopper when the checker pointed to the sign on the counter that read, “Closed — please use another checker.”

Eyes rolling and teeth clenched, the shopper moved on with her cart but mumbled out loud, “She oughta tell somebody befo de get in de line.”

The checker didn’t respond.

The scene at the up-scale cleaners’ parking lot produced a similar scenario.

“Excuse me,” said the polite twenty-something with the expensive sunglasses and blonde hair falling in loops across her shoulders.

“Get back in your damn car,” yelled the older woman wearing the fancy summer hat.

It was all about the parking space the blonde was pulling her Lexus into but which was being blocked by the older woman in the Mercedes sports model.

While it seemed that the blonde was trying to be reasonable, Ms. Older Woman didn’t want to settle in a peaceful manner.

The parking attendant intervened in this case of minor road rage.


Where did courtesy get buried? Seems that treating people like we’d like to be treated has taken on a new meaning.

Oh, the mumbling lady had two children with her in her shopping cart and the Lexus driver had a toddler strapped into a rear car seat.

Were the kids paying attention to the interaction? Probably not, might well be the answer most people would give. But from where and how do our young ones learn, if it isn’t by watching (at all times) the adults in their lives?

The ability to steer one’s life in a direction of mental stability is most often learned from those who influence our growth.

The grocery clerk, I would like to believe, was trained in handling belligerent, mean-spirited customers.

The security guard in the parking lot, from watching him approach the two women and the demeanor he displayed in settling the fracas, indicated he was trained for the event.

No, I don’t have a clinical diagnosis, and you possibly don’t, either.

Nowadays, we don’t necessarily need one to recognize we’re all living on the edge.

Mental health isn’t all about a professional diagnosis. I’m not so sure there is one called “At The Edge” but we all recognize it when it happens. And maybe we ought to recognize that being at the edge is unhealthy.

Our behavior in these everyday situations influences our children, and to put it simply, also ruins our days.


We all might be able to see the rosier side of life if we were to:

1) Learn to keep our mouths shut more often. Example: Clerk says the line is closed — just move on;

2) Go to the faraway parking spot. Example: We’ll be alone there as everyone else is usually headed for the closest space;

3) Lower expectations when encountering service providers. Example: Knowing ahead of time that when interacting with a store clerk or any other service provider that something is quite apt NOT to go our way;

4) Plan ahead. Example: By knowing that life’s travels are going to take much longer than they used to and that they are going to take much more of our strength and endurance.


When picked up from child care, the 4-year-old, with an angry scowl on his face, told his mommy that he wanted to kill the two kids who’d broken the toy soldier he’d made.

As I stood there with them, she told me with a scowl on her face, “He’s always angry,” and she went on to unleash a barrage of inflammatory statements directed at the child-care staff.

I’m nobody’s mental health professional but I can see in these seemingly small occurrences that we’re creating for ourselves and for our children, on a daily basis, an extremely unhealthy environment. And if allowed to go unchecked, this behavior will surely result in a mental health diagnosis that does have recognizable symptoms and a name.


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