The WORLD has a mental health day. What does that tell us?
It should tell us that mental health awareness is really important and is valued equally across the continents.
That’s not it though, is it?
We have world mental health day to attempt to focus people’s mind on this issue that, whilst being crazily common (no pun intended), is not talked about enough. I mean a whole WORLD day! That’s a pretty epic status. Sadly it’s a pretty epic problem we face.
Some of you will know that I’m pretty comfortable with this mental health stuff. I’ve spent some years getting up close with it, more specifically the bipolar variety. My family is infiltrated with it, rather like the common cold. We can’t go a month without it popping up somewhere.
And that’s my point, this mental health stuff? It’s NORMAL! As normal as we can ever expect at least. When we talk about 1 in 4, that’s like, really common. And let’s not forget that whilst 3 out of 4 may be lucky enough not to struggle we all do have our mental health and the older we get or the busier our life, the harder it is to rely on luck alone to keep it well.
So why are we still not recognising this in the same level as physical health? Where is the section on the supermarket health aisle that offers anxiety remedies as standard? Why are we not offered counselling like we are offered the flu jab? Seriously, a chance to talk regularly would most likely lessen the sick days over the winter months more effectively than an injection.
This taboo that follows anything to do with the mental (Definition being ‘concerning the mind’) is, in itself, insane (again, no pun intended). We don’t want our bodies to become ill or disabled lest we not be able to go about our lives, and yet we seem to think we can continue on when our minds become sick or disabled.
My family and I have had to break this taboo in order to gain some form of control about our challeneges. We have had to welcome each other’s mental health, illness and all. We have learnt to accept each other’s life choices or life needs that keep us stable; make room for them in our day to day.
Don’t get me wrong, It’s hard. Recently I was struggling with life. I say that as a pretty mentally healthy person. But throw too many life events my way and my healthy balance to life can take a knock. I took a day off work. A day. I needed to take a moment. Initially I did what so many of us do; I took a sickie and said I was ill. I knew the assumption being made was that I was physically unwell and at first I let that slide. But it bugged me. Apart from my anxiety and stress being real and probably something my work should know about, for my own health and safety, I don’t want to contribute to this hiding and shame that accompanies something we all have. So, I emailed my boss later that day. Simple and too the point I explained that whilst I was ill enough to need the day off, I wanted to acknowledge that it was my mind that was ill. Guess what? Nothing. No judgement, no reprimands, no nothing.
As a professional I see more frustrating mind-shaming. I see people too quick to label people as ‘angry’ or ‘not bothered’ when the reality could be ‘anxious’ or ‘depressed’. Worst still I think, is when mental health is mentioned by people mis-educated on the subject. The tabloids, celebrity culture and over-stretched Drs who talk of being depressed like it’s, dare I say it, trendy? and easily fixed with a pill.
I feel that in a society where a young single mother with low-mood asks health services for help (a big bloody deal when feeling anxious and low) and is prescribed pills with no apparent planned check-up and told to wait a further 12 months for free counselling, that maybe we are looking at this all the wrong way up.
Whilst awareness days are great, we need to make this more than a day. Every day should include our health. Without it where will we be?
You can start small. When you are next asked how you are doing, be honest. When you next ask someone how they fair, do so with meaning and the time to care and understand the reply. When someone says ‘fine’, ask again. You don’t need answers , just the ability to listen.
Happy (or sad or anxious or….) World Mental Health day everybody.