It is estimated that one in four people experience some kind of mental health problem over the course of their lifetime. Given those odds, it’s very likely that someone you know is suffering from a mental illness right now, whether you know it or not.
Personally I am very open about my own struggles with mental health and I’m more than willing to talk about it. I don’t do this to make people feel uncomfortable or to generate sympathy. I do it because I don’t consider it something to be embarrassed about and because it is something that has formed such a large part of my life these past few years.
But mostly I do it because I think it is very important to discuss mental health openly and honestly.
There’s still a huge stigma around mental health. Opening up about your own struggles with mental health can leave you feeling open to other people’s judgements and assumptions. Mental health discussions in the workplace, for example, seem to be one of the more taboo subjects you can bring up.
It really shouldn’t be this way. The fact is that anxiety and depression (to name a couple of the most common problems) are illnesses. And like any other illness they require treatment, work and time to recover from. We shouldn’t place blame on the sufferer for them having developed these problems in the first place.
The stigma surrounding mental health can make it feel almost impossible to talk about and this in turn makes it more difficult for people to seek help and build the support network that they need. And I know that personally, I would have never made it through without the amazing support network that I have.
In fact, once I started being open and honest about my own struggles with depression, I was surprised by how many other people started to open up about their own struggles too. It really is way more common than I ever realised. It helped connect me with other people and made me feel less alone. By understanding their struggles, I was better able to understand my own.
And then there is the fact of mental health awareness. I have heard so many people describe depression or anxiety as ‘something to snap out of’, ‘attention seeking’ or something that can be tackled by ‘getting out more’ without having any real understanding of the illnesses themselves.
I myself suffered from more mild depression for years before it eventually blossomed into something more serious. Had I been more aware of mental health conditions and how they present themselves earlier I might have recognised it’s symptoms and been able to address them before they escalated out of control. And for those not struggling with mental health problems themselves, a greater awareness would enable them to better help and support friends and family members who may themselves be experiencing depression or anxiety.