A week? Mental health awareness week should be happening 52 times a year. Every day of each and every one of these weeks should be filled with promoting positive mental health and spreading the message of solidarity. Mental health doesn’t take a break, so why should we ‘dismiss it’ – indeed not prioritise it – for the other 51 weeks of the year?
I’ve postponed this post until now, as this week has been far from easy for me. Yes, Monday saw the world open up once again about mental health – something which I will always encourage – but Monday also marked the day I said goodbye to my closest friend.
After fighting for the majority of her life, my beautiful, courageous Nat lost her battle and took her own life last month. And this is exactly why it is so important to talk about our struggles openly. Natalie was passionate about dispelling stigma surrounding mental health – especially that of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) – and blogging. If I’m honest, I’ve never been one to put my feelings and/or opinions down on paper until now. I started this blog for her. Because if survivors are unwilling to share their stories, what hope do we have of breaking down the aforementioned stigma?!
Mental health not only ruins and destroys lives – it also takes them, too. Not talking about mental health, particularly for men, kills. It really does. The stereotype/really fucking stupid social construct that men need to appear ‘masculine’ and ‘strong’ literally kills. We must fix this; fix this silent crisis.
On average 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental illness during at least one point in their life. Shocking, really. What becomes clear through this simple fact, however, is the sheer amount of people who suffer. The majority of whom suffer in silence. Stigma kills. Silence kills.
This citation from Men’s Health is particularly poignant:
‘Your mental health is inseparable from your physical health. Not a revolutionary concept, but what is astounding is the stigmatization that still surrounds men who dare to talk about their mental struggles. […] Men who are vocal about any kind of mental issues can be dismissed as weak. As inferior. As flawed, broken guys who are more likely to be ostracized for their honesty, instead of rewarded for their bravery. Instead of affording a fellow man compassion, we mock, belittle, and turn a blind eye. We freely spit the phrase, “Man up,” as though your gender alone should suffice to guide you through your darkest times. Or worse: we nonchalantly respond, “Well, that sucks,” then change the subject because talking about feelings is just too real.’
Anyone and everyone, regardless of gender, age, sexuality, race, socio-economic background, etc., deserves to be heard; lives deserve to be saved. Stigma Kills. Silence kills.
So, what can be done? As cliché as it sounds, simply being there for someone can really make all the difference. Perhaps try:
– Is there anything I can do to help?
– You may not believe it now, but the way you are feeling will change.
– Shall we grab a coffee? Have a catch up soon?
– I’m here for you whenever you need me.
– I’m here and I’m listening.
– Life can and will get better, I promise.
– These feelings won’t last forever.
NOTE: You do not need specialist mental health training to do these things! It really is as simple as that. So, be that friend – an ear always willing to listen; be willing to try and understand. Most importantly… BE HONEST. I cannot stress that enough. And remember one thing: no matter how alone you feel, you will never truly be on your own.
You are worthy of life. You do deserve help. You CAN get through this.
Remember: stigma and silence kill. Speak up and stand up for those who need you the most. Your voice and feelings are important, too.
We’ll get through this. Together.