Today I received an email from a young woman in the UK, who’s been following my blog. She has asked if I could post the following message from her, and I urge you all to read it. It holds a massively important message, and is exceptionally moving and inspiring. Thank you for sending this…
Mental health. Those two words that together act as a complex signifier of meaning. Mental. Health. Mental. That word, a technical adjective, meaning “of or relating to the mind”. Or, if you’re most of the population, synonymous with “crazy”, “insane”, “nutty” and a host of other pejorative adjectives that, quite frankly, aren’t welcome here.
In the UK, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition in any one year, and the WHO estimate that there are 450 million people suffering from a mental health problem worldwide.
So why the stigma?
People talk about it all the time, don’t they? Stamp Out the Stigma. It’s Time to Change. Dozens of campaigns in order to “raise awareness” of mental health issues, and reduce the stigma in both the public sphere and within healthcare. But the thing is, “mental health” isn’t one category. What does it even mean? If mental = mind, then how can your mind not be healthy? Does it bruise? Swell? Get itchy? Of course it doesn’t. Is everyone who has a “mental health problem” depressed? No. Mental health conditions come in all shapes and sizes, and anyone can suffer from them. That statistic, 1 in 4: think about your friends and acquaintances.
OK, so 25% of people have suffered, and are suffering, from a mental health condition. How do you know? How do you know which of your Facebook friends has an invisible illness? You don’t, obviously. Because we can raise awareness as much as we can, but it’s nothing without support and guidance for those who are suffering. Enough just to realise that it’s OK. That it’s OK to talk about it, or not to talk about it. That however much people may not understand, they are there. Look at this blog. Started two weeks ago. Already 152 followers, and a whole host of emails of support, encouragement and stories from around the world. How incredible is that?
So why am I even writing this? Because I’m currently on the sunnier side of that big ol’ mountain. Because I understand what it feels like to be haunted by bad dreams that you’ve had since being a kid, but are twice as scary as an adult. What it feels like to be scared of the dark, not because of what’s there, but because of what your mind does when you’re alone. What it feels like to be at the very bottom of this thing called life. When you feel like you have no control over your own brain. When an “active imagination” means terror, and when a “bad day” can mean curling up in a ball and crying until it goes away. I also know what it feels like to hold someone having nightmares so vivid you can practically see them too. What it feels like to drive someone around and around because they’re too scared to leave the car. When you feel completely helpless because all you can do is sit and say those immortal words “it’s OK”.
But I also understand what those words truly mean, when said in the sincerest of tones. I understand what it’s like to climb back up that rocky slope. To feel control for the first time in days, weeks, months. To have the most fantastic, amazing, messed up, but brilliant support network around you. To realise that it’s been 2 years, 10 months and 30 days since X. Because “bad days” happen, and “worst days” mean it can only get better.
And it does. It does get better.
But only with knowledge, and support, and maybe a big cup of tea.
So to those readers of this fantastic little piece of the internet who feel like they might never reach the other side: it is OK, and it can get better, and it will, because I’ve got a big piece of green grass waiting for you. And to those who want to help, but maybe don’t know how: that’s OK too, because even if you don’t understand completely, you can still help. Because a hug can mean a million things, and silence can sometimes be golden.
To all of you: keep reading. Because you’re part of something amazing. And what’s better medicine than that?”
Thank you so much for this… 🙂 🙂
I’m glad if somehow this blog is helping people realise it’s okay to talk, and touched by how everyone works together, and strives so hard to help each other, despite whatever barriers they are up against. Together we can help break the stigma, and allow people suffering from *any* mental health problem to talk, if they want to.
For abuse victims, I realise half of the problem may well be you were ordered not to talk, or given threats if you did talk, or told nobody will believe you.
Well…I believe in you. I believe in you all. If anyone else wants anything posting I’m more than happy to do so…and thank you to the above for your message.