I’ve just finished reading ‘Reasons To Stay Alive,’ by Matt Haig . It is a shocking, raw, yet ultimately uplifting account of his lifelong battle with depression and anxiety. I devoured it in two days and took a lot of learning away from it. I would encourage anyone with mental health issues to pick up a copy of it, as it’s well worth a read. Here’s what I took away from it. Feel free to agree, disagree or comment below.
Depression, anxiety, OCD, BPD etc are all recognised illnesses. Mental illnesses, yes, but illnesses. They are nothing to be ashamed of, yet so many people hide them away like a guilty secret. If you sprain an ankle, do you avoid talking about it? We talk about our coughs and colds, aches and pains endlessly. Yet, so many still treat mental health as a taboo subject?
Why? I think a lot of it is down to lack of knowledge. It’s that awkward subject, the elephant in the room, the issue we’ve heard of but it only happens to other people and not us. How do you describe OCD to your friends and family without sounding like a raving lunatic.? Explain it to people who have little or know understanding of the illness? Aren’t we all a little bit OCD? Is it something to do with being a clean freak? Er….no.
Education is key but education cannot happen without communication. Two way communication, yes, but we as a society need to become more open and accepting to discussing such matters. Burying our heads in the sand won’t make them go away. The problem will remain, growing and festering until it becomes too late to do anything about it. We need to grab the thistle and stare these demons squarely in the eye.
We need to create an empathetic environment where individuals can feel comfortable and confident enough to speak up about their illness. Without fear of judgement, ridicule or patronising comments. Telling them to ‘snap out of it’ is not an acceptable response. Do you snap out of a broken leg? No. We need to be prepared to listen to those around us who so desperately need to talk. Actively listen.
Yes, it’s an awkward subject matter. Big, scary topics. But they won’t go away and we need to start somewhere. We need to let people know that we’re there and we care. It can be in the house, the workplace or even in this wonderful online community we call WordPress. If you see someone who you think is struggling reach out to them. Be that beacon of hope, that light in the darkness. You might just save a life.
I need to practice what I preach. I personally need to do more. It’s one of the reasons I started writing, to share my own experiences in the hope it resonated with someone and helped them with their own struggles. I remain visible and available. I’m here. Every day. I’m no expert or counsellor but I have two open ears and a willing heart. I want to help. All you have to do is ask.
I could write so much more, this is only the tip of the iceberg. And I will in the days to come. But for today I’ll leave you with some food for thought? Are you doing enough for the mental health of your loved ones? What else could, and should, you be doing? Or are you suffering in silence, an anguished prisoner in the grip of mental torment. Be brave. Speak up. Talk. Listen. Today. Please.