Mental health is a stigmatised topic. There is no avoiding it, coating it with pretty lies or half-hearted hopes. As a society, we do not like to talk about mental health.
For those of us in the mental health community – on Twitter, here on WordPress, or maybe in a more physical manner –, it may seem as if the stigma surrounding mental health, especially that of young people, is finally lifting. And, in some respects, it is. But we have a biased view: we talk to people with, or interested in/aware of, mental health. Sadly, this is a tiny percentage of the majority. Things have to change.
Recently, there was some very sad news at my school: a student in my year group passed away suddenly. I didn’t know them well, but their death was, obviously, still a huge shock. The Monday after, my year group was called for a special assembly, in which we were told that it was ‘OK to feel, or to cry, or to be sad. And it’s OK to talk’.
I commend this approach by my school: they set up an area of the school where students could go and talk, or just sit quietly, or do whatever they needed to do. For the first time in my memory, they made mental health a priority, and I believe that is really significant. However, why did it take a tragedy like this for mental health to be raised in discussion? Why is it that, only when something as tragic as the death of a young person occurs, is mental health considered, and spoken about to 16-year-old students, who probably have all kinds of thoughts and feelings, both regarding the student’s death, and in general too.
I opened up to a friend about my mental health not so long ago. It’s not the first time I’ve done it – spoken to someone about how much I hate myself, or about the incomprehensible sadness I feel in my chest all the time –, and I am (sadly) almost positive that it won’t be the last, either. It was difficult, ironically because I trust this friend so much: I was petrified that my shitty head would scare them off, or would force them away from me in an act of self-destruction. Of course, it didn’t, and of course it was all OK – better than OK, as it so often is. What made things almost … better? … is that, as well as me opening up to them, they opened up to me, too, and we just talked, honestly.
Not everybody is exactly as they seem from a first glance – I don’t know anyone who is, in fact. I most certainly am not, and I don’t think I’d want to be. People have secrets, and that’s a good thing, an important thing. Sharing how we feel is hard, and some people find it easier than others; I honestly can’t imagine how anyone could find it ‘easy’, but I do know people who are even more closed than I am. There is nothing wrong with that – nothing at all –, so long as they – and if that closed person is you, then you – get helpe when it is needed.
There are so many absolutely wonderful campaigns which aim to end the silence around mental health. It’s difficult, and the continued existence of these campaigns show that their job is nowhere near done yet. I think the rise in famous people talking about their own mental health is helping: the Royal Family made a splash in the news last year when Prince Harry and Prince Wwilliam spoke about their mental health, specifically around the time of the death of their mother. There are pop stars and movie stars, writers and TV personalities, all talking about mental health, normalising it, making it OK to talk about. There are YouTubers and bloggers who have gained popularity through their stories, videos, posts and views on mental health, and that’s brilliant too. Putting mental health into the mainstream really shines a spotlight on how stigmatised it still is, and how much further we have to go.
And we have to keep going.
What I’m trying to say is, it’s OK to talk. It’s not just OK to talk on the second Monday of the month on Twitter, or just when the rock in the pit of your stomach gets big enough to make it impossible to go forward. It’s OK to talk, whenever. Whenever you need to, whenever you want to – it’s OK to talk. Talk to a friend, a family member, a teacher, or online, with ChildLine (in the UK), or another online service. Talk, because it’s important, and because you are important.
Talk, because people care, and so should you.
Talk, because that’s the only way that things will ever change, and the only way that things will ever get better.
If you want to talk to me about mental health, or about anything at all, I’m online, here on WordPress; you can contact me using this page. Alternatively, my DMs are always open, here on Twitter, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am always here to listen and talk to any of you, and I hope that, if you are comfortablein doing so, you can talk to me about whatever you want to.