Why the conversation needs to continue.
Nationwide there are various weeks devoted to raising awareness of different mental health conditions; OCD awareness week, eating disorder awareness week, suicide awareness week and so many more. This week is mental health awareness week.
Why do we not talk about mental health?
Don’t get me wrong, these weeks are totally necessary to raise awareness and reduce stigma associated even more but it really does upset me that we feel the need to dedicate one week to talk about mental health. Millions of people suffer day in and day out, but these days people should feel it is OK and have permission to speak about their experiences and struggles. It angers me that people feel ashamed to speak or ask for help, afraid of being judged or look weak due to the unnecessary stigma surrounding mental health.
So where does the stigma come from? I believe it is there right from the word go.
At school we are taught about sex and drugs, yet mental health is never mentioned, not even the signs and symptoms to look out for, or encouraged to talk and express when we are struggling – we are scared of judgement or being laughed at for feeling what we ‘shouldn’t’. It is unspoken and taboo resulting in the inability to talk TRUTHFULLY about our feelings sticking with us for life, feeling ashamed or perceiving ourselves weak if things are not going well. It can feel impossible to communicate feelings as we have never been taught how, or that it is OK, therefore throughout life it has stigma.
We need to learn to talk about our mental health.
We are hard-wired to answer the question “how are you?” with “I am fine”, we would never say “well things are a bit difficult”. Why is that? What is wrong if things are not going well? It is life, we all have ups and downs so why can’t we be authentic when talking about our feelings. Whether diagnosed or not, we all have mental health – it is totally normal to have times of difficulty and, to be honest, life would be a bit boring if it were always rainbows and butterflies!
Interesting fact, according to ‘Asthma UK’ 1 in 12 are affected by asthma, yet 1 in 4 are affected by mental ill health. So why, if mental health challenges are more common, is it ok to talk about asthma but mental health remains taboo and something only a ‘certain type of person’ suffers from.
The fact that Mental Health awareness week and other weeks exist, is amazing and they are great to remind people and to try to normalise these hushed subjects, I just wish it was not necessary to dedicate weeks to these.
1 in 4 people reading this article will be affected by mental health at some point in your lives. So let's talk about it, learn about it so people feel able to say when they are struggling, ask for help and less alone, to lessen the need for these special days.
Join us at our mental health cafe picnic. Let’s break the stigma together.