World Mental Health Day was on 10 October this year, so just over two weeks ago now. The reason why I chose to talk about and celebrate Mental Health Day a bit later is because I feel like not enough attention is paid to mental health generally, and I hope this can be a reminder to everyone that mental health is not only about that one day in the year.
So what exactly is mental health?
Some other terms being used for mental health are ‘emotional health’ or ‘well-being’. Whatever you call it, mental health is everyone’s business. We all have times when we feel down or anxious or scared. Most of the time those emotions go by. But sometimes they can turn into a more serious issue and it could happen to any one of us.
I assume you heard the quote ‘the only thing constant in life is change’, and it is not any less relevant when it comes to mental health.
Your mental health changes when situations change and as you go through various phases of your life. Most of the people who experience mental health problems can get over them or learn to live with them, especially if they get help early on. But there are some people who do not bounce back from the obstacles that easily.
We have come to a point where humans, technologies and the world are as developed as they have ever been, however mental health awareness is still seen as a ‘social taboo’ and there is still a stigma attached to mental health problems.
So, what exactly is a stigma?
Stigma shows when someone with a mental illness is called ‘dangerous’, ‘crazy’ or ‘incompetent’ rather than unwell – this means they may be treated differently, as if they are somehow less than other people. People with mental illness may be discriminated against and judged, which can affect their self-esteem. This can lead them to not seek treatment, to withdraw from society, to alcohol and drug abuse or even to suicide.
I know that things haven’t been easy lately and many people don’t even feel comfortable talking about their feelings. But it’s healthy to know how you feel and to talk about it.
If you are dealing with mental health problems, please remember that you are not your illness. And as much as I hope you are never going to be discriminated against because of your illness, if you are, please remember that the people who discriminate do not understand or have little or no experience of mental illness.
Mental illness is common. It is not a sign of weakness, but the more mental illness remains hidden, the more people think it must be something to be ashamed of.
So, I encourage you to tell your story (if you want), and find someone who you trust who can help and support you. If you do not feel comfortable talking to your friends/family, there are plenty of helplines out there that you can call, and you can also speak to our wellbeing team at University College Birmingham about whatever it is that is bothering you.
If you are a person who is helping someone to deal with mental illness, try and find out some facts about it, as it’s important to try and understand what someone with mental illness may be going through in order to be able to support them. There are times when you won’t be able to do much but just be there for them and listen, but sometimes that is all they need.
Mental health is for all.
Thank you for reading and take care,
Mental Health Foundation
Time to Change