Another day, another mental health awareness day. That’s how it feels sometimes. Another day where my social media feeds fill up with words and images. Of support, encouragement, reassurance. Calls to reach out to those with mental health issues and for them to reach out in turn. Tales of sorrow, heartbreak and sheer bloody mindedness in the face of days and nights full of nightmares.
And yet it feels like nothing changes.
Usually my posts for days like this are encouraging, helpful, urging people to reach out, giving the impression that things will be better if we could only talk to each other more.
But not today.
Today I am angry and feeling let down by the system that is supposed to help us, by a society that doesn’t accept us, by a battle none of us wanted to fight and in which it feels like nothing has changed.
There is still not enough support in the world for those with mental health issues. We are abandoned by both state and society. The funding and support from the government is woefully inadequate, waiting lists excessively long and help rarely there when it is needed. Those working in mental health are not to blame. They are frantically plugging holes in a ship too full of holes for them to keep it afloat. We are all too often shunned and unsupported by our employers and co-workers. Misunderstood and avoided by family and friends.
We are told on days like today that we matter and we are loved. So why are our problems still seen by many as something to simply get over, for us to keep quietly to ourselves. As if we are less than everyone else, something to be ashamed of. Our mental health issues are physical, we are physical beings – without a physical brain these issues would not exist. They come from something physical, not simply appearing out of thin air. So why are we still seen as second class, as imposters, as time wasters. Why is it still not recognised how unbelievably big a problem mental health issues are and how much needs to be done to change the attitudes of not just those who make the funding decisions but of the people in the streets.
We are encouraged to reach out, to talk to people, to let others know when it is too much. As though it is that easy, as though that will make everything better than a sunny day. But I read over and over again the stories of people who have done this only to have people walk away from them, for doors to be shut in their faces, for them to feel even worse than they did before they had scrabbled together enough courage to talk to someone. To be made to feel lazy, weak and worthless.
Because believe me it takes an unbelievable amount of courage to open up to people about your mental health issues. To admit that you are broken. You don’t know how that person is going to react. Even in current times when attitudes are improving, we face stereotypes and stigma surrounding mental health issues so often that it seems as much part of life as breathing. Life is full of shame, embarrassment and fear. And opening up to someone can be one of the hardest things to do…
Will you get the help you need? The all-enveloping hug to make you feel safe? The support you need to start managing your mental health better? Or will all that courage have been for nothing? All too often the response is negative, not what is needed. People don’t have time, there is no room at the inn. Or initially the response is good..until you are forgotten again, until no one checks in to make sure that things are okay or to join you on the floor if things are not.
We all need to reach out and we need to reach in. To work towards changing attitudes about mental health and destroying the stereotypes around it. More funding is needed as is better understanding through education and fairer representation in the media and press. We all have mental health…it’s just for some of us, it’s a little wonky. The statistics out there for mental health illnesses are scary and they are damaging the world around us in so many ways. And still it is not taken seriously enough.
Our mental health issues do not stop when this day ticks over into the next. This is our life and things need to change.