There are 3 things I cannot stand being said to me when people find out that I suffer with mental health issues;
"Oh, you don't look ill"
"Can't you just think of happy things then you won't be depressed anymore?"
"At least you don't have a real illness like cancer or something, that is much worse."
At some point in my life, all these things above have been said to me, and I'm sure many people have said them to other mental health sufferers as well. My response is always different. Sometimes I don't say anything at all and change the subject, other times I ask them "Would you walk up to a person who's been shot and tell them to stop bleeding?" and other times I feel like my head is about to explode and I could rant for hours on end about the effect this illness has on my life, and the life of my family as well. But as I sit in my garden on a beautiful sunny day, I do wonder. Is it the individuals asking the questions that are to blame for their lack of knowledge on the matter or does it run deeper than that? Is society to blame for placing a stigma on mental health and the people who suffer with it? A lot of people will say these exact words; "there was no such thing as depression in my time, you just got on with things." well in response to that I say, there was no such thing as HIV before the 60's, the first case of the Ebola virus was only discovered in 1976 and people didn't know that Fibromyalgia was a medical condition until 1981. My point is that things change, every single day things are happening around the world that results in change. Medical advances are happening more and more, the economy changes, the stock market, house prices, costs of living, diseases, illnesses. It's all changing, but one thing I believe is the last thing to change every time, is the way people understand and even accept an illness. When people first became aware of HIV in America during the 80's they mainly associated this 'new disease' as something that had occurred because of the gay community. It was them who had contracted it, therefore it was their fault. It was a difficult time to be gay anyway, but when people started hearing about HIV and eventually AIDS the subject was labelled 'taboo', it was 'dirty' and brought on by 'the gays'. This narrow minded view of the subject meant that people were not properly educated on the matter, they didn't know what effects it had on the individuals who carried the virus, they didn't know how it changed their lives, and that was simply because they didn't WANT to know. There was a stigma surrounding the entire subject, therefore it was to remain unspoken. This is similar to the way people feel about mental health today. There is still a stigma surrounding it, and unless people speak up and pull together to break the silence, then it will remain a taboo subject for the foreseeable future.
This is a subject that naturally is very close to my heart. Mental health is a serious problem not only nationally but globally, and unless we open our eyes to the reality of it all then it's going to remain a serious problem and will most likely continue to be a problem for the future generations. As a mother myself I feel it is our duty to be the brave ones. To once and for all break the stigma surrounding us, and let the whole world know "it's ok not to be ok". Nothing ever get's fixed if you simply sweep it under the carpet, it needs to be addressed, and people need to be educated.
I was attending a book launch a few weeks ago, a close personal friend of mine, had found the strength and the courage within herself to write a book about her battle with mental illness and I'm ever so glad that she did. I read the entire book in 2 days, it was thoroughly inspiring and so well-written. And I remember that I had asked her on the night about her opinion regarding educating the younger generation in schools and such about mental health. She (and indeed most of the large crowd that were there) were in agreement with me that it is vital that we talk and educate others about this sooner rather than later. I don't want to grow older knowing that my children and grandchildren (if I have any) continue to treat mental illness as "one of those things you don't talk about." That is not the way forward, this is not going to go away if you simply ignore it. It affects 1 in every 4 person and it is our duty to talk about it, get it out there in the open for the whole world to see and stand together united in our determination to say "We will make a difference. We will make a change."
My personal battle with mental illness is still on-going, but I can say one good thing that has come out of all the mess I deal with is that I am now more determined than ever to speak up, educate, and help in any way I can about the way people not only see me, but see the illness within me, and the constant struggle of being that 1 in every 4 person.
I hope you will follow me on my journey to educate others as I write my blog about the different elements of mental health and the way it affects those around me as well as myself. I won't change the world by myself, I know this, but if I can make a difference in the way one person views mental illnesses and the importance of discussing mental health then it will be all be worthwhile.
Take care of yourselves and each other. x