Mental Health shouldn’t be spoken about for just one day a year, it should be spoken about all the time.
I feel like still, people don’t really know what it is, how it affects people and why it’s so important to me and many others to get rid of mental health and its stigma.
I’m going to start by saying that mental health seems to be a forbidden and taboo subject. I have voiced in the past about my mental health, my anxiety and depression, but I rarely speak to people about it out loud.
You wouldn’t think that I have anxiety or depression, I don’t really openly talk about it, I don’t look like I have a problem, and my appearance hides it well.
I find that people look at me and see me as this big, tattooed, pierced woman and think that I’m as hard as nails when the fact is, anyone can suffer from mental health issues. Mental health doesn’t care what you look like, what gender you may identify as or if you like cats or dogs. It takes no prisoners.
But that’s exactly it. You could walk past people in the street, who suffer from mental health issues, and you wouldn’t even know it. It’s a hidden, invisible.
And that is why it’s so easy to just ignore it and act like it doesn’t exist.
So let’s look at the facts here:
- 450 million people suffer from depression or anxiety alone, not to mention the other mental health issues which have been accounted for.
- One in four people in the world will suffer from a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives.
- Every year in the UK over 70 million days are lost to people not going into work because of their mental health. Meaning that mental health is the leading cause of sickness and absence from work.
So, please tell me why with so many people affected by this every single day, is it still a taboo subject?
There are many reasons. People simply don’t understand mental health issues if it doesn’t affect them personally, you may think people will view you differently once they find out that you have mental health issues and you may also feel that people will make a joke of it.
And finally for the one that massively effects me – admitting out loud that you have a problem makes you feel like you’re openly declaring that you’re weak and vulnerable.
I know that I’m ashamed of it. I feel like it interrupts my everyday life and I spend 99% of my time trying to convince everyone that it doesn’t. I don’t feel like I have an illness, I just feel that it’s a part of me and my life and I’ve just come to deal with it on my own terms.
The worst thing is that no one asks to be affected by mental illness. No one wants it. It feels like you just wake up and it’s there: like a curse. And it seems so hard to control and overcome.
I would’ve never thought that 3 years ago doing normal things would suddenly be a massive challenge to me. I would’ve never thought that my body would physically stop me from going out and seeing my friends, or stop me from going and doing the things that I really loved.
I never thought that I’d be so fixated on me or a family member dying so often that I lay in bed crying continuously.
I heard someone say the other day “it seems everyone has mental health issues now, it’s like a fashion accessory.”
And instead of chirping up and standing up for myself like I normally do I just sat there ashamed.
It makes my blood boil because these are real feelings. It’s infuriating because suicide is the leading cause of death in 20-34-year-olds in the UK, and most of these numbers are men. It’s infuriating because if people were more understanding and knowledgeable about mental health people would be more comfortable talking about it. And they wouldn’t feel like they’re going to be judged for speaking about how they feel.
We’re still stuck in the Cretaceous period when it comes to mental health. We need to stop this stupid false divide between physical and mental health and start acting on it and treating it properly.
So, if you struggle like I do, make the first step today: get it out. Talk to someone close, visit your doctor, seek counselling, join online chatrooms or even keep a diary. If you know someone with mental health issues, you can help by simply being kind and understanding.
And, for the record, you are not weak if you have a mental illness. You’re brave, stronger, and smarter than you think.