Lets Talk About it: Restorative Practices and Mental Health

If you didn’t know by now, I am a Social Work student about to graduate in May, and I started Undeniable Grace on the foundation of restorative justice, restorative practices and dialogue.

One of the many areas that I have gravitated towards in the past couple of years would be, mental health. I too, have gone through and am still processing the way’s my own mental health has impacted me. Today I am going to write about both restorative practices and mental health and the power of uniting them both. This is based on research as well as some personal experiences. I will link resources at the end.

Mental health is a conversation that needs to be had, whether that be in schools, our communities, our workplaces and/or our homes. I know for me I grew up with very independent women who told me time after time that, “you have to keep it together” or “don’t let anyone know your weaknesses”. After a while, I realized just how closed off I was to my emotions, and to others emotions as well. I essentially built as many walls as I could and called it my safe place. Now this isn’t me saying get rid of boundaries, but to think about the ways you may have disconnected from the root of your emotions. I know for me, I embodied the words spoken to me by the trailblazers before me and truly did not allow others to see my emotions or mental state, but it came to a point where I had difficulties identifying the root of my mental-emotional well being which led down a very long and trying path.

With that being said, restorative practices have become such a prominent aspect of not only my approach with myself, but within my social work internships and family relationships. Restorative practices emphasize the power of relationships and the radical nature of empathy and care. Restorative practice lead to change within our mindsets that can impact the trajectory of our lives. Some examples of restorative practices impacting mental health can be seen in interpersonal relationships and the concept of accountability and empathy.

When someone is harmed by another, whether that is physical, mental or emotional, the root cause of that particular situation can impact the way in which we think. Moreover, if not interrupted can also impact our behaviors, emotionally and physically.

For Example: Person A and Person B get into a heated argument and some harsh comments are made towards Person B. Person B leaves this interaction with a heavy heart and mind. Repeating the situation over and over again and as time goes go on but keeps that impact to themselves. In the near future, Person A approaches Person B, and Person B has not dealt with the pain or ramification of the previous argument, so Person A decides it’s not the best time to talk again. Again they run into one another and Person A realizes since the argument Person B has not wanted to talk to them and takes it upon themselves to initiate an apology. Person A explains that there was no excuse to make the comments that were made and should have acknowledge that they could have caused harm and honors to take Persons A feelings into account. Person A explains that such comments were harsh but accepts the apology and also honors to speak up when their mental health has been impacted.

This example in its simplicity, point out a couple of things in regards to restorative practices and mental health. Accountability, empathy, vulnerability, and trust. Accountability is hard! Why because we have to reflect and acknowledge we can be wrong. That is hard because it deals with a part of everyone’s pride. However, its vital! For such a long time, I did not want to be held accountable for the ways I spoke or how I may have handled a situation, but when I finally stepped to the plate, I was able to see the impact of it. It is easy to understand a situation from your own perspective Furthermore, when addressing accountability, theres a level of empathy that is required to hold oneself accountable. Being able to empathize and put yourself in another shoes gives you perspective.

Empathy is not a diluted term that can be thrown around, being able to empathize is an action, a moment of doing with intentionality. To empathize is too see someone drowning and instead of looking at them from the boat, you throw over you life raft and you extend yourself, heck you do all you can to understand even if that means jumping from your boat and helping them up.

Vulnerability and trust can go hand in hand, especially when it comes to using restorative practices. In the example above, Person A had to step in a vulnerable, accountable space and admit to their wrongs. Person B had to trust that Person A was being truthful about their accountability. However, I am a firm believer in actions speaking louder than words but this is the first step to change.

So how does restorative practice and mental health go hand in hand, well in a Restorative Practices for Empowerment: A Social Work Lens, there is a key identifier when addressing mental health, identity and trauma, which is that it is always present. (Lustick, Norton, Lopez, & Greene-Rooks, 2020). The erasure of how each and everyone of us show up can be so easy, but it takes an intentional framework to acknowledge everyone isn’t showing up 100%. This article was referencing student and teacher relationships, but I would go even further into thinking about our interpersonal relationships and how we should show up for others.

To close, I do acknowledge that this is an opinion piece, however this has worked for me. It’s important to introduce restorative practices into our work, our relationships and our approached. While restorative justice and restorative practices aren’t the solution, they can be a road map to success.

If you enjoyed this piece please like, re-share and leave a comment! Thanks for reading this far! If there is any suggestions for posts you would like to see feel free to email or message me on social media, until next time.

Amanda, Undeniable Grace Education

References

Lustick, H., Norton, C., Lopez, S. R., & Greene-Rooks, J. H. (2020). Restorative practices for empowerment: A social work lens. Children & Schools, 42(2), 89-97. doi:10.1093/cs/cdaa006

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