Talking about mental health is still often seen as a sign of weakness – people worry that others will think that there is something wrong with them, that they are not strong enough, that they are not able to cope, that maybe they have failed in some way….that maybe nobody will want them around…
and very often when I talk to someone about their mental health they immediately assume that I want to talk to them about mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. They immediately assume that I think something is wrong with them or that they have some sort of problem. Such is the stigma still attached to conversations around “mental health”, that we still associate those two words with illness. Yet if we talk about “physical health” we do not immediately think about diseases such as cancer or diabetes. Physical health is often associated with positive imagery such as being in shape, exercising or eating well.
Much of this difference between the way in which we perceive mental and physical health comes down to how comfortable we feel talking about these things. The reality is that we all have a state of mental health and at times we will be thinking good thoughts/feeling good and at other times we may get caught up in some negative thinking/not feeling so great. Yet very few of us actually take the time to check in with ourselves on a daily basis and ask “how am I feeling today” – “are the thoughts going through my head today healthy or negative and destructive” – “how is my mental health today”?
Part of the issue when it comes to talking about our mental health is that not many people understand what we mean when we are talking about mental health. We don’t learn about mental health and our thinking when we are at school or at university. Only 10% of the population are naturally aware of their thinking (i.e. that inner dialogue going on in their minds). For many people, they only start to become aware of their mental health once they have suffered from a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression…but should we have to wait for illness to manifest before we look at what is going on in our minds?
Today is world mental health day and it is a day for us all to stop and take a moment to check in with how we are doing right now. Maybe we aren’t depressed or anxious but are we spending a lot of our time stressed? Are we “just doing ok” or are we really happy, engaged and feeling good about our lives? Many very serious mental health problems arise because people don’t notice what is going on for them – how they are feeling, what they are thinking, on a day-to-day basis. It is so easy just to keep going, to power through, to numb it with a drink/some food, to just make do…but are we really in optimum mental health? Mental health is not just about avoiding illness, it is about us all getting to a place where we are feeling as great as we can, as often as possible! Of course, life has its ups and downs, but accepting just “being okay” or “just getting by” should not be enough.
Hopefully in the near future talking about mental health will be seen as a sign of strength…this person that wants to talk about their mental health is someone that wants to take charge of their thinking, wants to be the happiest/most energetic/productive version of themselves…this is someone that we want to keep around.