On November 8, 2016, CandleX was invited to speak at the biweekly British Cub of Beijing meeting on mental health. The British Club is run by a team of international volunteers who live in and around Beijing and Shunyi. Their program of activities is aimed at entertaining and informing members and guests on different aspects of life in Beijing.
Through this talk, Marco wanted to inform and educate the audience on the reality, nature, and dangers of living with a mental illness. Marco used a combination of statistics and personal accounts to illustrate the challenges faced by those in the mental community. By combing numbers and the tales of his own struggles, he could give the audience a deeper understanding in a very short amount of time.
Marco started by expressing his concepts and understanding of both empathy and compassion. In addition, Marco brought in some new concepts to help increase empathy among the audience and provided them with avenues for approaching those with mental health issues. By describing the Mindfulness movement, the audience was introduced to exercises and practices that not only benefit society as a whole, but can be used specifically with mental health suffering to help with current treatment plans of medication and therapy.
By knowing how to share a person’s pain, getting ridding of the “Us vs. Them” mentality that so often separates mental illness sufferers from everyone else, and seeing the troubles of others in the community as just an extension of our own struggles, Marco hopes that the audience in the future will learn to put aside prejudices, reject stigma and open themselves with empathy towards those in need.
To finish, Marco gave a small tutorial on how the members could reach out to their friends, family and anyone in their community who might be in need, and how they themselves could ask for help. By teaching the twin concepts of “vulnerability breeds empathy” and “micro-empathy,” Marco hoped to give a new perspective on creating compassionate relationships. First, “vulnerability breeds empathy” describes how, by being open and vulnerable about our life experiences to others, we can give them a safe place to come to if they are ever in need, because they will feel less likely to be judged by a person who has already preemptively opened up to them and been completely honest.
Second, with “micro-empathy,” Marco described that a person in need of finding an empathetic listener who would be truly willing to help without judgment, can start testing a social network by opening up to others slowly and without revealing too many struggles, but that by watching for those that respond most empathetically to small pains, a friend might be found capable of sharing empathy for great life suffering.
In the end, Marco’s message of awareness, understanding and hope received a positive response.