World Mental Health Day – What does mental health mean to me?
So it was
world mental health day yesterday, and it got me to thinking, what does mental
health mean to me? You might think that given how vocal I am about my own
experiences I have a good understanding of it, I don’t. We are lucky to live in
a society where mental health is increasingly recognised as an important focus
of everyday life, it really wasn’t that long ago that it was still massively
ignored. People didn’t understand the most obvious examples like bi-polar
disorder or ADHD, there were simply two categories, ‘crazy’ people who were
sent to Bedlam-like institutions and ‘normal’ people who kept as quiet as
possible about their internal struggles, so afeared were they of being branded
Now we have
a much more diverse understanding, and there are a wide range of categories
that we fit in to in regards to our mental health, however there is still the
problem that when a wider audience sees or hears the phrase mental health what
they are understanding from that is bad mental health. But just like physical
health, true negative connotations are not the focus, you would quite easily
describe a person as ‘in good health’, in fact it’s something we strive for, to
have good health is a blessing and we make a lot of effort to maintain it, you
have a cough and you go to the doctors. Then why is it not so for mental
health? I strive to be in good mental health, which brings me onto my next
point, some people might think it doesn’t apply to them – of course it does!
For all the reasons above, it’s not a subjective phrase, it is something we
should all have an awareness of. Ok so perhaps you cope with difficult or
stressful situations in a way that works for you, when you’re stressed your
mental health is under pressure, but it is because your mental health is
relatively good that you can get through the problem. Not so for people with
bad mental health, whether it be a distinguishable syndrome or a generalised
anxiety, people who struggle with mental health sometimes can’t deal with the
very same situation other people would push through and move on.
have a quick myth busting session:
health – applies to everyone, it can be described as good or bad in equal
measure – just like your physical health! We all have ups and downs, but the
defining moment is whether or not you have the ability to get past those downs
in a measured way.
anxiety – life can be a bit tricky sometimes, logically most people can see the
right path and the more detrimental path, but it’s how to get to that path that
is the difficulty. Most often it’s not the big obvious things like
confrontation at work that gets this anxiety going, but the small ‘simple’
things like leaving the house or getting dressed or travelling on public
attack – these are not just the times of hyperventilation and pounding chest
pains and heightened sensitivity, they can be silent, paralysing with blurred
vision and a complete loss of grip on reality, and at no time is someone who is
suffering an anxiety attack looking for attention – in fact it’s the complete
opposite, they wish the attention would stop so that they have a chance of
calming their breathing and their minds.
we all feel depressed, yes of course we do, but just like anxiety there is a
bit difference in the responses to that depression. So you feel sad, down for a
little bit, maybe hours or days but then you pull yourself
out of the rut and get on with life. Feeling
depressed and having depression are two different things. With depression,
those feelings of sadness and hopelessness evolve into numbness and there is no
ability to pull your head above the water, not even for a single breath, it’s
relentless and it takes over every atom of your being. What’s worse is that you
are ashamed, embarrassed, you think that you are weak and so in public you
smile, but at home in private you exist.
person with depression as one way mirror, if you smile they will smile back, but behind
the reflective surface is a black mist of all the negative feelings a person
has perhaps ever felt in their entire lives.
many things I have almost certainly failed to highlight and I will hold my
hands up and say that these are the things that do and have affected me, but
the point is that next time you hear or read the term mental health. Stop and
consider, what does it mean to you?
This is me on a good day during the worst phase of depression in my life…
So what does mental health actually mean to me? There are so
many fantastic organisations spreading the love for mental health awareness, and many of
them offer services to help people suffering with a variety of things,
unfortunately we are still wildly under resourced, so my proposal to tackle the
growing problem of bad mental health is this:
Positive Preventative Measures – perhaps you have good mental health, perhaps you have ups and downs
but ultimately make it through, in the same way that we walk, we run, we eat
healthy food and we make a daily effort to be physically healthy, why not give
the same attention to your mental health? Just because you never ‘get ill’ doesn’t
mean you don’t still watch what you eat and try to, as a minimum, go for a walk
each day. You might never have bad mental health, but why risk it?
To coin a
phrase that I have used before, I was never a good girl, or a naughty boy at
school (thanks Mrs. T for that little sexist phrase) I surfed somewhere in
between, fluctuating but never quite reaching a social norm. Just like the good
children and the naughty children, it’s the people in between that defy
definition, that are at most risk.
I am a
massive advocate of meditation for maintaining my level of good mental health,
but it might be yoga or walking or taking the time to have a chat with a good
friend once a week, but the intention has to be there to keep healthy body and
mind. So keep talking and take care of yourself and don’t assume that the way you cope with a situation is the same for another person, it almost definitely won’t be.
Below I have
listed just some of the amazing organisations that offer help and advice, as
well as some that help towards maintenance of an overloaded brain in this mad
world, that is to say nothing of our NHS, which despite the issues we are
facing, is still one of the most accessible health care service in the world.
So I ask you
one more time, what does mental health mean to you?
for prevention (most of these are apps):