Not for the first time our son has been asked this question and again today, he replied by sitting quietly looking into space, not able to reply. It’s not that he doesn’t experience happy things, but is unable to relate such happiness to the word. “Tell me about a moment you enjoy” the interviewer tried asking again, to receive the same response.
For you and I, the question conjours up many pleasant thoughts and memories, such as running barefoot along the shoreline as the waves break over your feet, or waist-deep in a field of corn, or sat watching the sun rise, or set, listening to a piece of music, spending quality time with your family, and friends. Almost immediately you will recall many things that make you happy and which bring a smile to your lips when you recall them.
For a person with mental health issues, the same is not always true and they need help to focus on and recall those happy times, pushing back the anxiety and depression that block their visualisation.
This was brought home to us today when in one of many assessments and reviews this week, our son was not only unable to recall something that made him happy, he didn’t even understand the question. On this occasion, we were working with a very understanding assessor, who helped us develop a technique, building on photographic records of our son’s daily activities, doing things that made him happy and others that maybe not so – I’m delighted I had already started recording days out this way but there is much more to do, now we understand the principle behind it – The pictures will be used at the end of each activity and together we will talk through the level of enjoyment and fun and grade them in three groups initially representing ‘Happy’ ‘Ok’ and ‘Unhappy’
Using these we can then look to talk through each picture, what we did, what he felt like doing it, was he smiling in the photograph, was it raining or sunny and help him recreate that recollection with this photographic stimulus. The aim is to encourage him to reveal that which he would like to do again, or not and this helps us develop a schedule of activity for the next few days.
Next time you are asked ‘what makes you happy’ please give a thought to those who don’t know and maybe give a little time to help them journey to that same place. It takes a lot of time, and a lot of patience, but once there, it’s so rewarding for both parties