We are the canaries. We are the early warning sign. We are the siren. And you are ignoring us.
A long time ago in the UK, miners would take canaries in cages into the coal mines because these birds would twitter and tweet (coughing and spluttering, but prettily!) if there was a sniff of toxic gas in the air.
The miners would pay attention, grab the birds in their cages and hustle each other to leave the mines immediately. Because, despite the birds’ small size and apparent insignificance, they were listened to. The miners knew that the birds’ plight and ultimate death would soon be theirs if they didn’t act. The miners were not blindly, ignorantly, arrogant about their ability to survive in a toxic environment that was already killing smaller/weaker beings.
They all fled to safety together.
Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly I suppose, some of the birds sometimes died when people in the mines weren’t paying enough attention to the fact that the birds’ tweeting was signalling an increasing build up of a toxic environment. And, also unfortunately, people who ignored the birds died too.
With incidences of mental health issues rising globally, and with associated suicide rates rising too, we should all realise something. We ought to pay attention to our canaries.
People’s minds or emotions are not getting worse. Having mental health issues is not a sign that there is something wrong/broken with an individual. No one needs to be fixed.
Our environment – social, economic and natural; since they all combine to form the one macro-environment in which we exist – is getting worse, and those of us who are more genetically/naturally sensitive are having significant trouble maintaining contentment and positivity in our modern society. Being attuned to the risks of the world is in the genes for some of us, but this is not a malfunction we need to learn to manage. It is a powerful strength to which the rest of us ought to pay attention!
An early warning sign.
The canaries are frantic in their cages. Many are dying. And the miners, the rest of us who are not yet suffering, put our faith in the mental health industry.
But, to me, this is baffling. The mental health industry does not appear to be helping us escape a toxic global environment, and nor does it appear to be trying to change that environment (in which we suffer). The mental health industry seems to be trying to fix the canaries!
When I think of the mental health industry within the bounds of my miner/canary metaphor, I realise that all of us twittering canaries (those of us with undiagnosed mental health issues, or those with long standing ones) are being quietly picked up in our cages, taken off to a hidden corner of the mine and told to breathe slower, to let the poison into our lungs slowly so we can get used to it, to adjust to the new environment, to remember that life includes hardship, that the stresses we feel are normal, that we are meant to feel as bad as we do, that everyone else is coping so we must be able to find a way to survive/cope too.
It seems we are expected to accept the world as it is, to accept that stress is normal. To not hope for, to not ask for and to not work towards peace. It seems that, collectively, we are shushing the canaries while forcing them to stay with us in an environment that is growing ever more toxic.
But we all ought to be paying attention.
Those who are keeping positive now, those who do not even think the environment is toxic now, those who cannot yet smell the poison in the air; we who have already fallen, we who are spluttering and choking before you, we who can already smell the toxic gas……we are your warning.
The air around us all is growing bitterer and deadlier every second, are you really going to wait and taste it for yourself?
You won’t like it. Trust us, we know.
It might kill you. It has already done for many of us.
Don’t ignore the canaries. Fix the environment – social and natural.