“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million empty words.” – Thema Davis
Mental Health. What do those two words mean to you? They hold different connotations for everyone. But what I want to talk about today is the stigmatisation of mental health and some steps towards mental well-being.
1 in 10 young people are affected by mental health problems.
1 in 4 people will suffer with mental health problems at some point in their lifetime.
So why don’t we talk about it more?
We all have mental health, just like we have physical health, and just as our bodies can become unwell, so can our minds. Just because you don’t have a cast or a plaster, that doesn’t mean that you’re well. However, there is still a ridiculously large stigma surrounding mental health; despite changing attitudes towards sexuality, ethnicity and other issues, attitudes towards mental health are still very poor.
When I was in Sixth Form, I took part in the ‘Time to Change’ course offered by CAMHS. It was on this course that I learned just how stigmatised mental health is (take a look for yourself here – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/research-reports-publications/public-attitudes-mental-illness). What worries me – and I can vouch for this as someone who has struggled with their mental health over the years – is that if you share how you feel, you are often ridiculed by those around you. And that can hurt. Stigma is very damaging when it comes to school, work, relationships and staying healthy.
Why should stigma affect those things, you ask? Not only does it isolate people struggling with their mental health because they fear ridicule upon speaking up about their problems, it prevents them from seeking help which in turn impacts on their everyday lives. It’s the domino effect. If you don’t have a healthy mind, you don’t have a healthy body.
If someone comes to you with a problem, don’t laugh. Don’t ridicule them. Don’t shrug it off. Make a cuppa, sit down, listen and offer your help or advice. You could help someone just by showing that you care. If I hadn’t had understanding friends when I first started struggling, and if I didn’t have understanding friends now, who knows where I could be? Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health is a key step in improving mental health in this country.
Some Steps Towards Mental Well-being: What You Can Do For You!
- Take some time out of your day for you. Find a new hobby. Paint, draw, read, go cycling or running. Even find a new Netflix show you like. Do something for you.
- BUT know your limits, triggers and threshold. Sometimes you need to slow down and become self aware. Know when you are mentally exhausted and it’s time to relax.
- Find your calming/coping mechanism. It could be a song, a book, a film, a TV show. It could be anything.
- Share without conviction. Know that sharing your problems with someone is not selfish or burdening.
- Trust others. Have faith in someone that isn’t you. It will take the pressure off of you and you will have someone to confide in, rather than sit around overthinking and letting your thoughts get the better of you.
- Try not to get lost in your thoughts. Believe me, I know that it’s easier said than done, but getting trapped in thoughts about the past or thoughts about the future can cause great anxieties. Go to a happy place in your mind instead.
- Name what you are feeling. A friend of mine finds it helpful to name whatever she is feeling. “Hello anxiety, please go away.”, “Oh, here’s the worry that I’m going to fail this exam.”
- Don’t let your illness define you. You have a name, a personality, a whole life of history and a whole life to come. Try not to lose sight of who you are.
If you know someone who struggles with their mental health, please be kind. Please be considerate. Please be understanding.
If you are struggling with your mental health, please be kind to yourself. Never forget that your illness does not define you; your strength, courage and resilience defines you. You are not fighting a losing battle. You can and will win. Don’t give up.
Samaritans: 116 123 (24/7 service)
Childline: 0800 1111
“Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don’t believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it’s good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.” – Andrew Soloman