Mental health and wellbeing matters: knowing when to button it

Coffee image for Film Stories' regular mental health column
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A few words on trying to stop making heated situations worse, and working out when to speak up.

Hello, and a very warm welcome to our place on the site where we chat about mental health, wellbeing, and things that may be affecting you, or people around you. We run these articles weekly, and not everything we write will be of relevance to you. Hopefully though, we’ll stumble across something that is!

This time, a few words on, well, when not to have a few words.

Not for the first time, this particular piece in this particular series of articles is going to invoke the words spoken by Mark Rylance in the Steven Spielberg-directed Bridge Of Spies. Come moments of conflict and letting off steam in that particular feature, Rylance’s character – and it was an Oscar-winning performance – simply enquires “would it help?”

It’s a bit of a go-to sometimes for me, that. Not least when it comes time to work out when’s best to say something, and when’s best to eat a little bit of shit (for want of a better way of putting it) and keep my mouth buttoned. Nobody ever draws that line perfectly, and history very much proves I am no exception to that.

But still: it’s not always worth going into battle. And it’s certainly not always worth going into battle when the temperature of a situation is already getting a little bit heated. I do believe that there’s only a certain amount that people can reasonably be expected to take before they snap and/or bite back.

Yet also: would it help?

The older I get, and this may be a surprise to some people around me at least, the more I button my lip. I don’t actually want to hurt people, I don’t want my words to do unexpected damage. I do want to have my say, but I don’t want to have it at all costs.

If the price of meeting all of that wishlist is to keep schtum, then I don’t mind paying it. At least if it’s just an occasional thing. If you’re in a work or friendship relationship when that becomes the norm, then inevitably it’s an alarm bell. And keeping things regularly buttoned up is an accelerated path to poor mental health. This piece isn’t, therefore, universal, and different circumstances affect the choices that we all make.

But it is at least worth taking a second or two before biting back in a situation and trying to question if what you’re about to say or do has any chance of improving matters. Would, after all, it help?

You all take care. This column will return next week.

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