And here we are with the seventh and final part of the Mental Health Awareness Week series. We hope that over the series, you’ve found new ways of looking at mental health, new ways in which people have been affected by it and new ways in which you may be able to support it.
We’ve spent a long time talking about the difficulties of poor mental health, the possible triggers, the impact this can have. It’s a fairly heavy subject, but one that needs addressing. But I think it’s equally important that we also address the goal we’re trying to attain at the end of all this; positive mental health.
Now, that alone is enough to have a few people scratching their heads. After stressing the various angles of mental health, how easily affected we all are, how can we say that such a thing exists?
And just to be clear, gritting your teeth and ‘getting over it’ is NOT a pathway to positive mental health. You feel compelled to bottle up and all anxieties you’re feeling and carry on as if you were the picture of perfection. This is a practice known as ‘Stepford Smiling’. You may be grinning from ear to ear on the outside, but on the inside, you could be breaking down.
Life takes many unexpected turns for each of us. Turns that threaten to derail us to throw them off course. And chances are, there is always going to be something that threatens to haul us into the mental abyss.
Some people feel that you have to be an expert in mental health to be able to properly support someone. Believe me, while a PhD certainly wouldn’t hurt, it’s not always the case. Support can come in many different forms, and a padded cell doesn’t need to be the first response. It can be professional help, self-control, socializing with friends or family. As I’ve said before, sometimes it can be as simple as hearing someone out and listening to what they have to say.
For some people, anxiety and depression and various other mental conditions come and go at inconvenient times, and because they can be hardwired into our psychology, ‘curing’ it isn’t really an option. As the Ancient One once said to Karl Mordo in Doctor Strange, “We never lose our demons. We only learn to live above them.” So glad I was able to get a Marvel reference in there. So, while we can’t necessarily remove these traits, that does not mean that we can’t manage them. We just need the right level of awareness and support so that when people do experience an issue with their mental health, whatever the cause, they have a better chance of recovering.
A major step-forward would be for all major establishments – companies, shops, schools etc – to have some platform for mental health awareness should the need arise. It’s considered a custom for employees of these establishments to have some form of first aid training. So given that we’ve got physical health covered, what’s to say we can’t cover mental health? You never know, that working knowledge of mental health could seriously benefit someone in the near future.
This knowledge is especially given in schools. Children are often prone to picking up on the ‘odd ones’ out, and sometimes this can result in bullying, which can only exacerbate personal anxieties. One day, they will be the ones playing a part in shaping this perception and in some cases, providing support. Children need to understand the wide-reach of mental health to show it in its most neutral state.
Giving young children an enhanced understanding can also lead to self-reassurance. By the time we all get to adulthood, we have either experienced mental health issues or we know someone who has. And we benefit from that exposure and resulting knowledge. But what about when you’re going through it for the first time? Not knowing exactly what is going on in your head and what you can do about it or how to talk about it? Mental health isn’t really renowned for its visibility, but it’s always there in the background of our minds, influencing our actions like a faint shadow.
We can give children that knowledge of what they’re going through, as well as the reassurance that we can support them, allowing them to lead mentally healthy lives.
Now, if you should ever feel that professional services are needed, you should make sure you know who they are and how you can contact them. I’m not saying you need speed-dial, but for organizations that have supported various forms of mental health, they can do wonders both for the person who needs supporting and yourself both for future tips as well as your own mental health.
The most important piece of advice I can give ANYONE is try to find things in your life that leave you feeling happy and fulfilled, whether it’s a job that let’s you offer up your best skills or an activity you excel at and take pride in, or a hobby that gives you a platform for comfort and of course, finding people to share in that mental comfort. And if you feel like you’re having difficulty finding that, NEVER be afraid to talk about it. And don’t let anyone tell you what you’re going through is unimportant.
Despite our best efforts, at some point in our lives, we will all find ourselves losing that self-control, reality feeling a lot more harsh and jagged. That’s not a reflection on you, we’re only human. Poor mental health is often at its most influential when we feel like there is no way out for us. We can show people that this is not the case, that they are not alone. What matters is that we help each other through those down-periods.
Mental health is a fundamental part of our lives. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, not if we’re equipped to support it and tilt it back towards the positive side. All it takes is a little awareness…
If you enjoyed this article, why don’t you check out the other blogs in the Mental Health Awareness Week Series: