Every month is seems there’s another awareness day; today it’s World Mental Health Day, next month it’s Stress Awareness Day. And while many people will post about it to raise awareness, others will ask, ‘why are we going on about this all the time?’
The simple answer is that unless we keep talking about it and normalising the conversation then people who need help won’t get it. And with 1 in 4 experiencing a mental health problem each year, that’s a lot of people suffering alone.
Ask yourself this; if you’d been off with the flu would you be happy to tell people at work what had been wrong with you? What if you’d been off with stress, anxiety or depression? Still happy to share? My experience tells me most of you will say no, because there’s still a sense of shame that attaches itself to mental illness, as though you’re somehow at fault, or maybe you’re weak. I’ve worked with HR teams for many years and found a real reluctance to be open about a mental health problem, in case it damages career prospects.
So how come every part of the body can get sick and we expect our brains not to?
I’ve had depression and I’ve had anxiety. I’ve also had pneumonia and a hysterectomy. None of it was my fault. I got ill and luckily, I got better. Sometimes I’ve been able to be open with people around me, people at work; other times I’ve kept silent, fearing I’d be judged. And let me tell you I recovered faster when I was able to be open and honest and got the support I needed.
So let’s stop judging and start talking, because if you’re not the 1 in 4 this year, a friend, family member or colleague is. And if you’d send flowers or a card to someone who’d had an operation – send them to someone who has anxiety or depression. Worried about having the conversation? Just ask how they are – and if they say fine, ask again. If they open up just listen, then ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Simples!
And if you want to know why mental health disorders are on the rise, and what we can do about it, subscribe to my blog to receive next Wednesdays instalment!