In light of it being World Mental Health day, it only seems right that I dedicate this post to a topic I am very passionate about: Mental Health.
This year’s theme is: ‘Mental Health In The Workplace’, which is great because for many of us our working hours make up most of our week, and most of our adult life. So difficulties in the workplace could very well have an impact on our mental wellbeing, and similarly stressors in life, can impact our mental wellbeing.
I’m sure most of us are aware of the statistics that ‘1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives’ (WHO, 2001) . UK stats suggest 1 in 4 will experience a mental health problem each year, and in England 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. And if we take a step back again, international stats suggest that more than 300 million people suffer from depression, which is one of the leading cause of disability worldwide. And more than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders.
‘1 in 4’ means this is a lot closer to home than we think, it could be you or me, in a group of four, one of us is bound to experience a mental health difficulty.
Despite the prevalence of mental health difficulties in our communities, ‘mental health’, ‘depression’, ‘anxiety’, suicide’ are still considered dirty words that shouldn’t be said aloud or shared in public. If they are shared, the sharer runs the risk of being shunned. Ostracised. Marginalised. Ignored. Labelled: Mad, Crazy, Psycho. Why? Because mental health issues is a private affair, not to be discussed in public.
It’s funny how differently mental and physical illnesses are treated.
We can empathise with someone who has sustained a physical injury or has been diagnosed with a physical medical issue. If I broke my arm or suffered third degree burns I would have a rally of support from professionals as well as family and friends. Sadly, the story changes as soon as we mention mental health; alarm bells raise, barriers come up, defences are on full blast, employers are not empathic or understanding. We distance ourselves. We don’t understand. We don’t want to understand. Out come comments of judgement, condemnation, blame, which breed feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt.
For a moment I want us to put labels, diagnosis and stats in the bottom drawer of the cabinet. Because behind these labels, challenges and difficulties are people. People just like you and me. People who are going through a tough time. Many who feel ashamed to talk about it, sad, scared and alone.
I don’t know many people who would want to wake up with thoughts of suicide and self harm. Do you?
Or people who desire to think life is not worth living?
Or do you know anyone who would want to feel so on edge and panicked they are not able to carry out their daily activities?
I think I can confidently speak for those of us that have felt really low, or experienced periods of extreme anxiety so much so that our lives came to a halt…I’m pretty sure we did not want to feel like that or go through those times.
Yet when people feel like this we tend to blame them. When people pluck up the courage to share how they feel, we dismiss it, shut them down, or tell them to get over it.
I for one am not over it, because:
Mental Health issues are real!
Depression is real!
Anxiety is real!
It exists in every society and culture.
Oh and guess what it even exists in the Christian community!
It may be called different things but I guarantee you it exists!
Let’s think how we would like to be treated if we were going through challenges or periods of distress…this should guide how we treat others.
“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. “(Philippians 2:4)
So in line with this years theme; let’s look after ourselves, and each other.
Let us not just speak about our challenges, or mental health issues amongst our friends and family, BUT let’s take these discussions to our workplace, social settings and schools.
Let us not only continue talking about it, let’s embrace those dealing with challenges by providing a safe, non-judgemental space for them to talk and just be.
Before I close, I thought I would share some symptoms to look out for:
Also, know YOUR personal triggers. Have you noticed a change in your mood, appetite, daily routine, bodily symptoms? These could be indicators of stress and challenges. Are you or have you gone through a particularly rough time?
If you are struggling with low mood, or feelings of anxiety and distress, please talk to someone.
Trust me, there are people out there who care and WANT to help!
Talk to your GP,
Family, friends, colleagues you trust
There are also services you can contact for support such as:
UK – 116 123
In the Republic of Ireland: 116 123 (free to call)
Infoline provides information on a range of topics including:
- types of mental health problems
- where to get help
- medication and alternative treatments
0300 123 3393
Lines are open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays).
0300 304 7000 (Open every day of the year from 4:30pm to 10:30pm).
For urgent medical attention, your options are Accident & Emergency (A&E) and Emergency GP appointments.
For urgent medical advice you can call the NHS 111 (England) or NHS Direct (Wales).
Please look after yourself and do not be ashamed to reach out for help if you are struggling.
In truth and with love,