It seems an apt time to post my first blog as Mental Health Awareness Week is upon us! But What does this really mean for the majority of us? Well that very much depends on how we view mental health.
A fairly common mentality around mental health is that we need to be more aware, invest more and engage more, but with an underlying “oh, but not me. I’m fine”. Well that is wonderful if it is the case, but are we really being honest with ourselves?
Do not consider my question as a challenge but rather a consideration to hold. Our media is dominated by mental health headlines, but rarely do these involve information regarding people struggling with anxiety, depression or self esteem, and instead the sensationalist headlines seize their editorial space with “schizophrenic man attacks two”, “depressed individual attempts suicide” and “teen self harm on the rise”. Whilst these new stories depict the subject of mental health, they do not depict the full story and many aspects of varying degrees. This leads us to begin to think that anything less than a suicide attempt, hearing voices or hospitalised with a dangerous BMI is not really mental health.
I couldn’t begin to count the number of clients that seek help and begin sessions with “I’m probably making a big deal out of this…”, “it’s not really that bad…” or “There are others with much worse problems… ”
Alongside this detracted view of our mental health, we have our British stiff upper lip mentality that proceeds to tell us that we should “keep calm and carry on”, rather than acknowledge our difficulties and seek help. Probably tied up within this is the stigma of ‘weakness’ that goes side by side with seeking help, though we’re happy to pop to the Doctors when we’re suffering physically.
Finally, a great difficulty lies within how resilient we are as people. Our millions of years of evolution have given us tools to survive within difficult circumstances for a considerable amount of time. Whilst we’re only surviving and not thriving, we can convince ourselves that “things must be OK, because I’m getting on with things OK”. Yet, life is not for survival, its for thriving!
Don’t see mental health as the headlines grabbing sensationalism that its made out to be, see it along a spectrum. There are millions of people with broken sleep, anxiety when they wake, shyness in social situations, obsessively checking their house before leaving, struggling to see the point in life, putting off more and more tasks, getting angry with their partner, children and colleagues. THIS is the face of mental health.
But no need to categorize yourself, simply ask yourself how content, happy, and fulfilled you are out of 10. If, in general, it is less than an 8 perhaps there’s room for improvement! Perhaps you have a few areas of your life that could do with improving and maybe mental health does apply to you.
Pain is relative – Someone somewhere has it worse off. Yes that’s probably true, but someone has it worse off than them. Is there a limit or degree to which you have to reach to have permission to be distressed and want help? Pain is relative and it is completely individual to you.
Because you can survive, doesn’t mean you have to – Yes you probably can continue for longer in the state of mind you’re in, but you don’t have to. That lingering toothache we have can be suppressed with some pain killers, but its not going anywhere. seek help…
Seeking help is strength – I don’t really like the term help because of the connotation of vulnerability, but we’ll use it for now. When you see a wild animal approach a human to aid it with an injury, do we consider that weakness? Or do we consider it courage? When we seek medical input from a GP, do we think we are weak? We likely would not judge others for seeking help, so why are we judging ourselves?
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