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Why We Should All Care About World Mental Health Day – Even If We Don’t Have a Mental Illness

1 in 4 of us will experience mental illness over the next year. Find out how you can help - even if you're one of the 75%

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by Bexx Henderson in Mental Health
WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY

Today is World Mental Health Day.

I’ve already spoken about my personal experiences with mental health on the blog before, albeit briefly. In time, I’d like to share more about my own story – but it’s still something I’m working towards. Today isn’t about me though – today is about us, and the role we all play in the wider story – whether we have direct experiences of mental illness, or not.

I’ve thought long and hard about what to write in this post. There’s still so much that needs to be said: so many misconceptions that need to be shattered and so many realities, often hidden behind closed doors, that I would like to see out in the open.

Mental ill health is often hidden, unless we’re caught up in it ourselves (either directly, or through our loved ones). This makes it so easy to turn a blind eye, or forget about the importance of it all.

The truth is, even if you’ve never experienced a mental health problem yourself, you can still be a valuable part of the conversation.

Here’s why:

The Difference Between Mental Health and Mental Illness

The difference between mental health and mental illness is subtle, but important:

Mental health is something we all have – even if we’re not ill.

Although related, mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. We all need to take care of our mental health – in exactly the same way as we do our physical health. 

One of the biggest challenges, in my opinion, is getting people to talk about mental health when they don’t have an illness.

Not only will this help us all live a better quality of life, and recognise the symptoms of stress and mental burnout (which can affect us all) – it will improve the conversation that surrounds mental illness, too.

If mental health becomes a part of normal conversation, it would be much easier for people to speak out when they need help. The stigma that surrounds mental health is still very real – and every small step that we can take to reduce it, in my eyes, is a positive one.

You Can’t Always Tell When Someone Needs You

As I’ve already mentioned, mental illness is often invisible. This, coupled with the stigma, means that so many people struggle on their own – not really knowing where to turn.

I’m so lucky to have supportive people around me –  but that didn’t help me deal with my depression and anxiety. I didn’t know where to turn, or who to talk to. I felt like a burden. I had a life full of people who cared about me, but I’d never felt more alone. I didn’t want people to think I was ungrateful. I mean, what did I even have to complain about?

To people on the outside, everything probably seemed quite normal. I was falling behind at work, but it was easier to let people think I’d just got a bit lazy, rather than talk openly about what was going on. How do you even have that kind of conversation with your boss – when you can’t bring yourself to open up to those closest to you?

When you’re lost in the storm of mental illness, it can be hard to talk about it. This isn’t just because of the stigma, or the fear of how others will react. It can just be really bloody hard to find the right words.

We can’t always know when someone needs us – but we can still make a difference. If we all do our bit to start a conversation about mental health, we can work together to reduce the stigma and help those struggling feel less alone.

How Can You Help This World Mental Health Day?

I feel like one of the main reasons stigma exists is a lack of understanding. The portrayal of mental illness in the media often isn’t accurate, which doesn’t help either. If you don’t know much about mental illness, one of the simplest ways you can help is to learn more.

Become an advocate for mental health. Don’t shy away from the conversation and, if someone opens up to you about their mental illness, listen. You don’t need to offer advice, or try to “fix” the problem. Mental illness isn’t something that can be willed away, or “fixed” in the way a broken leg can.

The good news is, with the right support and treatment, it does get better. We can all make it easier for people to ask for help, by sending a clear message to everyone: it’s okay not to be okay.

It’s okay, and we’re here.

 

If you’d like to learn more about mental health, here are a few resources I recommend to get you started:

  • Time to Change – ending mental health discrimination. Check out the personal stories for some real insights into what mental illness feels like.
  • WHO – learn about the official theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day (psychological first aid).
  • The Samaritans – how to start a difficult conversation. This is a really useful resource if you’re worried about someone, and you’d like to know how you can be there for them.

If you’re struggling with your mental health at the moment, and you’re not sure who to talk to, The Samaritans also offers a confidential listening service. Click here to find out more. You don’t have to do this on your own. xx

SELF-CARE ISN'T SELFISH, MAMA.

Are you an exhausted mum, trying your best to take care of yourself and your tiny human(s)? This free workbook will help you find time for your own wellbeing.

GET THE WORKBOOK