Today, Monday 10th October 2016, is World Mental Health Day.
It’s an important day to get people talking, because talking about it is what will hopefully keep breaking the barriers. Mental health is so important, yet still quite misunderstood and under appreciated.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders and depression, I know the rut you can get stuck in, the endless spin cycle you can’t seem to stop. I also know the difficulty of speaking out, asking for help, confiding in someone else. The sense of isolation. The prejudice and discrimination you can face. The feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, hopelessness.
This year, the ‘theme’ for World Mental Health day is what support can be provided to those in distress. You can read more on the Mental Health Foundation website.
Why is today important?
It may give just one person the confidence to reach out and ask for help. It may persuade just one person to think twice before making an inaccurate judgement against someone with a mental health condition. It may mean that just one person is able to offer someone support when they need it most.
It’s perhaps not surprising that depression, anxiety and other issues are so prevalent. Despite having more connectedness, more opportunities and healthcare and freedom and consumerist choice than ever before, our mental health is taking a hit for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there’s too much choice, too much focus on materialistic achievement, too much pressure to multitask and do everything, too much comparing to social ideals, too much perfectionism.
It’s not a failure or a mark on your character if you have anxiety, an eating disorder, biopolar, depression or otherwise. In fact, some (myself included) may say these things can (cliche alert!) make you stronger, shape you as a person in a positive way, and that you can harness your experiences to benefit others one day. And you’re certainly not alone.
Talking a bit more, being able to reach out, having the support as needed, a feeling of acceptance from others, having someone lend a considerate ear, a little compassion… these small things can all go a long way.
Today, I want to raise awareness that…
- Mental health can affect anyone, everyone, at any time and for any reason. It doesn’t discriminate.
- It’s not ‘contagious’, nor is it psychobabble. There are a variety of mental health issues, from schizophrenia, bipolar and borderline personality, to eating disorders, body dysmorphia and depression.
- Your mental health can have a pervasive knock-on effect in your life. It can affect your social life, work, school, friendships and relationships. It can affect your concentration, memory, appetite and physical health.
- “What have they got to be miserable about?” There may not be a ‘reason’ that can be easily stated to explain what’s going on in someone’s head. It doesn’t mean that person doesn’t have a reason to feel the way they do. We all have a right to our emotions, to own the thoughts and feelings we have. Everyone copes differently, and you can’t compare from one person to the next. It’s not a competition to see who can handle the most without breaking or to see who is more resilient.
- As with other invisible illnesses, a mental health issue(s) may not be obvious. In fact, we can get scarily good at hiding it, covering up, making excuses and appearing ‘normal’ / healthy / happy. It can leave an indelible mark on that person’s life, as well as on those around them. It can be isolating. It can go relatively undetected in some cases. And yet suicide rates are staggeringly shocking statistics and the effects of mental health are so destructive.
- I used to think that the phrase “put yourself first” was selfish. Thinking about me me me, what’s right for me, what would help me, taking some ‘me time’… that it was all very self-centred. Not so. I’ve learned that it’s true what they say – You need to care about yourself because you’re worth it, you deserve it, and your health and wellbeing should come first. You are a priority because you are the only one in your head, living your life.
- In an ideal world? I would like to see confidence building and assertiveness integrated into school curriculums // I would like there to be less stigma and judgement // I would like everyone to have access to the support they need, both through friends, family and colleagues, and with better access to mental health services // I would like employers to recognise mental health within the work place and be more compassionate.
Have you experienced mental health issues or known someone who has? What do you want to raise awareness about today? <3