Thankfully, over the past 12 months, the light being shone on mental health issues is brighter than ever before. Last year the London Marathon chose Heads Together as its official head charity and the younger fellows of the Royal Family made a point throughout the year of launching various campaigns to encourage more people to be open and honest regarding their state of mental health. This week an amalgamation of businesses, celebrities, and organisations came together to tell the social media world that it’s #TimetoTalk.
Mental health holds no barriers and can affect any one of us at any time; it doesn’t discriminate and even the strongest person you think you may know may be suffering under the surface with what could be a debilitating mental illness.
What’s more concerning, however, is that while it’s brilliant that we can come together to talk about mental health, there is a distinct lack of support and funding for emergency and social services to provide long-term care that can help individuals cope. The number of emergency call outs for mental health has increased. Pressure on social care is at breaking point so that vulnerable people feel isolated and alone, and when a person is admitted to psychiatric care, they could be potentially moved hundreds of miles away.
The need to break the stigma of mental health is stubborn in that many still feel discriminated against, while many are struggling with their lifestyles because there is pressure to constantly achieve, and that’s before you even get started on the role social media and technology now plays. In no uncertain terms, it’s very easy to become discombobulated and lose track of which fight is the most beneficial one to focus your energy on.
When your mood is already far down the scale of negativity, it’s difficult to break through the brick walls and find the energy to want to move ahead. But there is always someone or something that can give you the strength to open up and to blossom in the way you deserve.
By providing knowledge to children, we can give a wealth of tools to them so that they can grow up being compassionate and more open. In the workplace, we can champion someone who will be on the lookout for warning signs of mental illness. Also, groups can come together to raise the profile of being there when someone needs to talk. At first sight, it may seem like a maze, but, eventually, the breadcrumbs will appear and something will be good enough to give someone the strength to reach out for help.
The trend of self-care is something that anyone can adopt to provide baby steps in seizing the day, all the while acknowledging that it’s vital to go back to the roots of what makes you happy in order to improve mental well-being. It’s no surprise that because we are streamed into the living rooms of our friends and peers, we put unexpected pressure on ourselves. This is higher than the years before when we blithely plodded along, content in our innocence and disconnection from the second-by-second breakdown of someone who isn’t us.
Finding someone to talk to doesn’t always feel like an easy step to take, but it doesn’t have to be a partner or a friend. The Samaritans’ volunteers have dedicated their lives to be a listening post without judgement and without inciting upset from stigmatising or playing down callers’ state of health.
It’s hard not to write a novel of negativity when assessing the current culture of how we treat mental illness and the frustration of how it feels as the years pass by. Things seem to be deteriorating rather than improving. But for each and every one of us, by finding the strength to speak, together we can provide a community that can open our arms to those who are struggling.
It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture to pull someone from the depths of drowning, and by simply finding the right person to talk to and unravel their thoughts, the pressure of their illness is eased. What can you take from all of this? Bang the drums, blow the trumpets, and get behind any little campaign in the mental health community so that slowly we can hammer through the brick wall of stigma and isolation.
Yes, we can accept it isn’t straightforward and that it may take time, but there is a world of people standing behind ready to catch when you feel ready to fall. All you have to do is just find the time to talk.
Katie Bagshawe is currently a Student Diagnostic Radiographer at the University of Derby. She holds an MSc in Psychology from Sheffield Hallam University.