The answer to our problems is each other

By Dr.Nina Browne

She was really stressed. She hadn’t felt that way before. It came out of the blue. She was worried she might fail her exams. She had a row with her boyfriend too.  It was stopping her doing the things she wanted to. Her friend wanted to help. But what should she do?

She could send her to me. I am trained to help with exactly this kind of problem. But it feels like overkill doesn’t it? Anxiety that stops us doing what we want to do deserves the right kind of help, but the label ‘mental health’ is going to put a lot of people off. So what are the other options?

The answer in this case was her friend. I encouraged her to get into a conversation. And to listen. And to resist trying to fix the problem. Just listen.

Lots of conversations like this happen around the world every day. On sofas. In living rooms. I suspect it is one of the most common and possible effective responses to stress.

That is why spaces called living rooms set up by the Association of Camerados are so important. I was in the one they set up in Sheffield College the other day. It is a space where students get connected. Since most of those who come don’t know each other, at least at first, their conversations involve a lot of listening. And since it is a college, a lot of the talk is about stress; about class, about exams.

Camerados has created a space that encourages a natural remedy to worries; conversation.

If mental health depends on referral to a psychologist, progress is going to be slow. As long professionals are the primary dispensers of help only few will benefit.

Many of the students I met sitting on sofas in living rooms may have been really stressed out. But that doesn’t mean they needed to talk to a psychologist. What they needed was someone to talk to, someone to listen, someone to cover their back. 

In my world the answer to problems might come in the form of a an intervention. In a living room the answer to problems is each other.

join the movement at