Mental Health Awareness Week. Controversial. It’s a topic so many people are afraid to talk about. Some may argue that it’s great to have an awareness week, but do those same people give it a second thought in the following week? Or the week after that? Others act like it doesn’t exist, in complete denial. Ingratitude. And then there’s the people who are mad. They’re mad because they believe that mental health awareness should have no lifespan, no expiration date. I’m on their side. We need to talk.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that Mental Health Awareness Week does a great job; all day I’ve seen so many posts, people showing love and support, sharing stories, essentially doing what they feel obliged to do – raising awareness. And it’s great. But here’s the thing… after this week is over and people (not everyone, but some) stop posting on social media and stop talking, it’s over for them. It doesn’t stop for everyone. In fact, it doesn’t stop for 1 in 4 of us. There’s the statistic – ‘1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year’ (mind.org.uk, 2017). Research shows that that’s remained a pretty steady statistic. And the problem? Talking. I mean that in every single sense of the word.
Think about it like this: if mental health was as valued every single day of the year, as much as it is in this single week, would the same number of people feel too ashamed or scared to talk? I don’t speak for everybody. I have to make that absolutely clear. I know people will experience different feelings towards the idea of talking about what goes on in their head… but here’s what I want to dissolve away – the stigma attached, this idea that talking about your mental health isn’t good. Why the fuck wouldn’t it be good? My example. When you hurt yourself, maybe you fall over and hurt your knee, usually your first reaction is to clutch it straight away because it hurts. You know it’s not going to fix it, but you do it because it reassures you. It keeps you going until the right help comes, whether it’s a plaster if it’s mild or somebody to come and give you assistance. Stick with me. Mental health, things going on in your head, or if your want the fancy-pants definition *ahem*:
Now, imagine instead of your knee, it’s your mind. Instead of clutching it, you talk. Just like when our body feels pain, we find ways to keep ourselves going until we find our source of support.
Talking is hard. God, I can tell you that it is so hard. There is a constant fear that you’re going to be judged for whatever comes out of your mouth. ‘Are they going to look at me differently?’ ‘Are they going to tell people?’ ‘Is there something wrong with me?’. The answer, believe it or not, is no. Not at all. Because you will make the decision to tell the right people, the people who won’t just hear you – they’ll listen. When you’re ready to talk about something, through very careful decision making, you’ll pick the person you trust through your own good judgement.
The way I look at it, talking is the starting point. When you don’t voice anything, it all stays in your head, the only person you tell is yourself. It becomes heavy, it becomes constant, it intensifies and it will consume you. I promise, opening up little by little will change your life. It’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done. It’s taken me a while to get there, and I’ve had to learn how to deal with telling the wrong people, but at this point, I know who to talk to when things are rough. Here’s the important bit, this applies to every single one of you reading. You do not have to be the one who is suffering to be a part of this because your job is to keep everyone talking! And I mean everyone – forget gender, religion, culture, sexuality – address mental health issues and help us to kick it’s ass. Spread the word, make people aware, do your research. Most importantly, let those around you know where you are. Make it clear that if at any time they need somebody, whether it’s for 5 minutes or 5 hours, tell them you’re here to listen. Please don’t assume people know they can talk to you, let them feel comfortable in the knowledge that they have your support. Hey, even something as small as asking somebody how their day was… it can make a huge difference. Let’s get talking and don’t ever stop.
Because really, your mind controls every single part of who you are. Your physical health is responded to by your minds. Your actions. Your movements. Your thoughts. Your intelligence. So, if your mental health is suffering, how can you expect the rest of you to be ok?
Help to end stigmas against mental health. Encourage talking. Encourage thriving. Encourage a future to look forward to.
For more information or support, you can visit the following links (and of course, never hesitate to send me a message – I’m never far!).