mentalhealthawareness“Be proud of every step you take towards stability, no matter how big or small” – Jessica Ann Hardy

Welcome, everyone to the first in a series of articles supporting Mental Health Awareness Week. I might have said celebrating, but I wouldn’t want to bring down a wrathful vengeance upon myself.

From 8th May to 16th May, the residents of the UK will be speaking out, acting out (or any other outs I can’t think of at this time), spearheading local and national events (hopefully international too), taking to the media (social and TV) on the issues surrounding mental health and the ways we can support people to ensure that they have the best mental health or, at the very least, the best support in place. We will try to look at various avenues of mental health, the good, the bad, and in some cases, the ugly.

Now, the first thing that I need to make clear from the get-go about mental health is something everyone should be including in their infinite wisdom…

We all have it.

Every single person on the planet has some form of mental health. Now, just in case any alarm bells are ringing in your head, we shouldn’t confuse mental health with mental illness. That is one Pandora’s Box we don’t need opening.

Strained mental health doesn’t just come from a psychological condition such as bipolar or paranoid schizophrenia (although those can be contributing factors). It can come from every day occurrences. Maybe a teenager feels self-conscious about their appearance and fitting in with the rest of their class. Maybe an employee will be stressing about getting through that monstrous workload that always seems to be growing. Or maybe a friend or family member is stressing about the mental state of someone they’re close to, jumpstarting their own issues with mental health. We’ve found that within Talent Match Leicestershire, many young people have struggled with mental health for many of these reasons, the most notable being bitten by the unemployment bug (DISCLAIMER: No such species exist).

Just like the sun in the sky, mental health reaches everyone in some way (although mental health won’t give you a promising tan!).

But under the wrong circumstances, that mental health becomes a mental problem, which is said by Time to Change to affect 1 in 4 people. So, it’s not about curing mental health, it’s about ensuring that people don’t bump up to that quarter and getting them to a place where they feel emotionally content, or at the very least, making all the right steps in that direction.

The causes of mental health are everything and nothing. Maybe someone has had an abusive experience which manifests itself in later life. Maybe you’re lacking the general comforts of everyday life to help keep you in check, maybe its part of a lifelong condition that you can manage reasonably well, but flares up every now and then. Or… maybe there’s isn’t a cause. Maybe, you suddenly find yourself dissatisfied with yourself or the world around you, something you can’t necessarily see, but feel, a feeling you can’t shake no matter how hard you try, a feeling that festers until it hinders your life.

Chances are, either we’ve all been there, we’re all there right now, or we’re all going to be there at some point. You don’t have to be a certain age to be affected by it. The only factor qualifying you for mental health is for you to be human… I’m sure animals have some mental health issues, but I’m pretty much in the dark on that one… especially when my only possible references are The Jungle Book and documentaries of David Attenborough.

Now, I don’t profess to be an expert on mental health. Most of us aren’t. Granted, there are trained experts who can, but for the most part, all we know of mental health is what we experience or what we watch, read or hear from people or the media. So, anyone looking for the definitive portrayal of mental health, sorry to disappoint. There aren’t even several pictures. If anything, it’s painting a series of diverse fragments. It’s such a diverse and expansive area that the words ‘typical’, ‘general’ and ‘overall’ have no place in the mental health dictionary…I’m just speaking hypothetically, the only dictionary I’m familiar with is of the Oxford variety.

Now, we’ve talked about what could cause mental health, so it stands to reason that we should also talk about how to support it. Support comes in various forms, from therapy to medication, but the key support out there are friends and family. If you feel like life is getting on top of you for whatever reason, don’t be afraid to speak to someone about it. And vice versa, if you think someone is feeling bent out of shape, don’t be afraid to check on them and see if they’re all right. Doesn’t need to a grandiose gesture of Shakesperean proportions, but just enough to let them know that they can confide in you.

In regards to mental health, this week is about everyone. From the people who have not gone through any notable mental strain, but could do in the future, to the people on the verge, to those who feel overwhelmed by life, and of course, perhaps most importantly, those who have tragically lost their lives on account of mental illness. The final group are the ones we are doing this for most of all. We may have been unable to save them, but we can do their memories and their families justice to ensure that no one else has to feel like there is no way out with no one listening.

To everyone out there who may be feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, know that you are not alone, and most importantly, never be afraid to speak up…

On a final note, when it comes to awareness-raising, why is it always represented via ribbons. I’m not Anti-Ribbon or anything like that. Just curious. Something to find out…

For more information on the various forms of mental health, check out these insightful sites: 

Mental Health Foundation


Accessing Mental Health Services – NHS Choices


If you enjoyed this article, why don’t you check out the other blogs in the Mental Health Awareness Week Series:

Part 2: The Need for Early Intervention

Part 3: The Physical Side of Mental Health

Part 4: The Unemployment Factor

Part 5: The Hidden Condition Overlap

Part 6: Moving Away From Stigmas

Part 7: Working Towards Positive Mental Health


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