So today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. While my line of work mainly involves striving to improve people's physical health and well-being, the 'mental' and psychological well-being of my clients, family and friends is hugely important to me.
And 2017 seems to be the year that the importance of our Mental health is being brought to the surface. ABOUT FRIGGIN' TIME!!!
This week the Mental Health Foundation are highlighting the importance of our mental health with the theme 'Surviving or Thriving?'. I won't go into the theme in too much detail here as they have many excellent resources going more into depth about their campaign and research on their website (www.mentalhealth.org.uk). However, their way of describing the scale and spectrum of our mental health helps clear some things up. They describe good mental health and 'Thriving' as "the capacity of each of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face" (Mental Health Foundation, 2017). Whereas, poor mental health and 'Surviving' we can turn that around as being unable to cope with many of the issues life deals us, and experiencing a negative disruption to our normal thoughts and well-being.
For years there has been a huge stigma around people talking about their mental health issues, and that by admitting that you are struggling means you are weak, not good enough or less worthy as a human being. With the lack of public knowledge and awareness Mental health has become the elephant in the room where everybody, whether they are currently in a negative mental state or not, does not know how to talk about it or what to say. People are suffering in silence and it's about time we talk openly and lift each other up in this crazy world we live in.
It is thought that two thirds of people have experienced a mental health problem and many of those people do not even realise it. You might notice a change in your perceptions or way of thinking, but not know what it is or how to deal with it. Days, weeks or months may go past where these feelings fluctuate between feeling on top of it, and the opposite where you cannot function properly at all to do the simplest day to day tasks. Those times where you experience bad days, thoughts or actions, you may have been told by others or yourself to just 'man up' or 'get over it'. And when society promotes that attitude and way of thinking, it's not a surprise that sometimes it can take a person reaching a serious or dangerous level within their condition for something to be done.
The most common mental health disorders in the UK are forms of anxiety and depression, which can affect people of all genders, race, age and financial backgrounds. Other common mental health problems include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, Post-natal Depression, Bipolar disorder and Eating disorders with many others still out there.
But I can probably guarantee that you or somebody you know has experienced anxiety or depression to some extent in your/their lifetime. While I've never been diagnosed with a mental health 'condition' or 'disorder' and don't believe my mental health has been in a particularly bad state, I definitely feel I've experienced times of anxiety that meant I've avoided social events or missed out on certain opportunities. Mainly because I felt overwhelmed by a situation which lead to further feelings of inadequacy, highlighted my insecurities and became scared of what people thought of me. Luckily, I have a great support network that are there for me, especially on those difficult days to help. While it can seem difficult at the time, talking to them about how I feel does help!
So, if you know somebody who is going through a tough time, just letting them know you are there is the best thing you can do. When they are ready or able to talk, it is important to listen, be open and show no judgement. Encourage them to seek help and remind them that there is no shame in doing so. Then, they can begin to find a way of coping and regaining a more positive state of mental health. This may be through medication, exercise or just simply talking more regularly about how they are feeling. I'm not saying this is an easy process at all, but within the mixture good and bad days, hopefully a positive progression will begin.
Our mental health is not binary and is never only all good or bad. We will all experience different points on the spectrum over time. Being part of a generation where the world is becoming more digital we can choose what we show about ourselves on facebook/instagram etc. However, remember we are all human beings filled with a complex set of emotions. And by talking more openly about our mental health, we can bring more awareness to it and hopefully help others and ourselves in the future.
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