It’s May! (that came around quickly) and May is the month of mental health awareness. I know, super exciting!
Now there’s a possibility of a few people thinking ‘A whole month? Do we really need a whole month raising awareness for mental health?’ So if you are asking that question then we have in-fact proved, that yes, we do. There are months which are dedicated to numerous amounts of awful diseases which we of course don’t question. So why would we question this month?
I get it, it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to discuss feelings and emotions, All those things we don’t full understand (Oh my goodness what an awful idea… Please sense my sarcasm). It’s almost frightening and the easiest way to deal with something that makes us feel uncomfortable is to ignore it right?
So let’s think about that word stigma, what does it mean? Well I have a scenario to help us get our heads around it. Imagine that you have cancer, now imagine that instead of people talking openly about it, wearing their badges, running marathons and being very vocal about beating this disease and supporting one another. They cast judgemental looks and start whispering behind your back after they find out your diagnosis, TV shows make off the cuff jokes about death due to cancer which then leads people to believe this is an okay way to act, so you start over hearing friends blurting out stupid jokes/ comments about this illness that they think relate to their lives. Then people who were once close to you turn their backs, murmuring to each other ‘she’s only saying she has cancer for attention.’
Sounds absolutely horrific doesn’t it, in fact it actually pained me to write. But this is what people with mental disorders experience on a daily basis and it should’t be happening! No one should be made to feel that an illness they have no control over is their fault.
I’ve experienced this first hand. I’ve gone through the heartbreak of loosing friends who didn’t understand. I’ve witness the accusing looks after someone has seen the scars that pattern my arm. I’ve found out about the whispers when I’ve had a breakdown in public. I’ve sat and listened to friends joking about how depressed they are during work and when they feel hungover they could just ‘slit their wrists’, how when they’ve had a bit too much to eat they could just ‘shove their fingers down their throats’. Granted, these words were not directed at me as a joke but they hurt, those words that came out of their mouths in such a matter of fact way, like those actions are not life threatening. It killed me inside every time.
Mental health is no joke, mental health is not something we can brush away with avoidance and silence. Mental health illnesses are as serious as any other disease and should be treated as such.
Here are a few facts and myths from http://www.time-to-change.org.uk in regards to mental health:
- Myth: It’s easy for young people to talk about their feelings
- Fact: Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems.
- Myth: People with metal health problems don’t experience discrimination.
- Fact: 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination.
- Myth: Young people just go through ups and downs as part of puberty, it’s nothing.
- Fact: 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem.
- Myth: People with mental health illnesses are usually violent and unpredictable.
- Fact: These people are more likely to be the victim of violence.
- Myth: People with mental health illnesses aren’t able to work.
- Fact: We probably all work with someone who has a mental health problem.
So, mental health doesn’t have to be scary, it doesn’t have to be a taboo topic. But it is something we should all be talking about, because sitting in silence and burying our heads in the sand is not going to help the ones who really need it. This is not me saying we should be jumping to conclusions and forcing people to talk about their feelings, but it is me saying we should all be a little more open minded, myself included. It really is as simple as asking if a friend is okay if you’ve noticed them struggling, offering a quiet moment and the chance for them to be listened to. It’s to not be judgemental about something you may not understand and it’s not to fear. With that I’ll leave you with this quote:
‘Fear is the main source of superstition and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom’ – Bertrand Russell