1oth October 2016 is World Mental Health Day – the day when The World Health Organisation takes the opportunity to raise “awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilise efforts in support of mental health.”
This day draws attention to the good work being done by charitable organisations like the Mental Health Foundation who run a fund-raising campaign called ‘tea and talk’ to coincide with the date and Time to Change who run their Time to Talk campaign all year round.
However, all too often we talk about mental health in abstract terms. We awkwardly refer to someone with a ‘mental health problem’ while much less frequently using the label of a ‘physical health problem’; rather just saying specifically what the issue is.
Unfortunately, like it or not, there is still a stigma attached to mental health in a way that there is not when discussing someone’s physical health. Even the statistics that are meant to normalise these conversations like:
still pigeonhole people into those who ‘have a problem’ and those, it follows, who don’t.
Why does it have to be this way?
I hold my hands up that I am not in the peak of physical fitness at the moment. There is nothing dreadfully wrong with me but I have a few aches and pains and could do with doing some more exercise and eating less sugar.
What if I were able to discuss my current mental well-being in similar terms?
If someone were to ask me ‘how have you been recently?’ would it be okay for me to say “well there’s nothing dreadfully wrong with me but my anxiety levels could be lower and there are some times in the month when I have a tendency to feel a little overwhelmed?”
Surely, if we were all more precise in how we express ourselves when it comes to discussing our own mental health, then the conversations could come more easily and there would be greater honesty, warmth, empathy and openness in our interactions.
The first post I ever wrote was about trying to be more open about discussing mental health and encouraging others, especially the students I work with, to do the same. Yet still I find myself avoiding the conversations. I read candid and valuable blog posts about the topic like this guest post on the Mum Reviews blog and yet I cannot put my own experiences into words.
I’m hoping tomorrow at the ‘twins club’ playgroup that we go to every Monday I will fit in a bit of ‘tea and talk’. It may not be me sharing the whole history of my own ‘mental health’ problems but it will at least be a time to listen to other parents discuss their well-being and to open up a little about my ‘ups and downs’ too.
In the process we will raise some money for the Mental Health Foundation and also find a few minutes to support each others’ efforts to optimise our mental well-being.
During the morning it’s more than likely that someone may ask me about Mindfulness. Writing the blog has been one way to help me feel more comfortable about ‘talking’ to people about being mindful. Previously I was a little shy about speaking of in case people thought I was a bit of a ‘hippy’, slightly mad/strange or both. Yet I knew I wanted more of my friends, colleagues and others around me too, to know the benefits of Mindfulness as it is all too often misunderstood. Yes, it is being used as a treatment for common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety but it can also just be a way of leading a mentally healthier life too.
Basically I like to see Mindfulness as a way of boosting my immune system. It’s just not not the ‘physical one’ that fights coughs, colds and other nasties. Instead, in my mind, mindfulness boosts the ’emotional immune system’ – the one that helps us fight the dark thoughts and negative feelings that can consume any one of us from time to time.
If you can, try and find something today that may help boost your own ’emotional immune system’.
Maybe you’ll finally find out a bit more about Mindfulness. You may read the Mental Health Foundation’s advice about mindfulness or maybe read my post outlining some of the basics of mindfulness or another post giving some tips about how to build mindful activities into a busy parenting day.
Or you may decide that something else may work better for you at the moment – Mindfulness is not for everyone, but whatever it is that you decide upon, stick at it.
Good luck. xx