Sometimes courage is not just about taking a step forward. Sometimes it’s about stepping back and taking stock of everything.
This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), if you hadn’t already gathered by the onslaught of tweets, instagram and news reports from various other media platforms. I dont always do anything on these ‘anniversaries’ because to me, conversation around mental illness and our mental health in general should happen 365 days a year.
Throughout this week I have read many a testimony of individuals sharing their personal journeys. I’ve seen leaders and ambassadors supporting this particular week. Some positive ones I have enjoyed following (amongst many) are #onetake by Tim Boughton, the video and subsequent tweets by Glenn Haughton and Jonny Benjamin who really did bare his soul. It’s good to see people positively supporting campaigns. However, there was also some negativity from individuals trying to call people out for being ‘snowflakes’. Having a go because people are starting to speak out about their mental health, including some well known names, is just not right. Individuals look up to celebrities, and if they see they have the confidence to speak out about their struggles then it can help them. Denise Welch is just one of those who receives negativity from certain areas, but she bravely speaks out about her own struggles to help so many more. I know of at least 5 people within my personal circle she has had a direct positive impact on. There will always be negativity, there is with anything in life. You just have to remain true and be your authentic self.
Throughout this week I have personally travelled miles to support individual events around mental health. I received so many requests to attend events in support of MHAW. I think it’s fantastic everyone is getting on board but please, this has to be for more than 5 days in a year. People with mental illness, and those struggling who could become very unwell if not supported, need our recognition and support 365 days a year.
Why do I care? I have battled with my mental health since an early age. I survived abuse, only for it to affect me in later years. I survived an eating disorder, only for it to rear its ugly head time and time again. I’m also surviving PTSD but at one time I struggled with all this and needed people to accept and understand my illness. I fell flat on my face on numerous occasions throughout my life, I’d hit rock bottom with nowhere to turn. There is nowhere else to go once you’ve reached the bottom except up. Sometimes though, because it’s so dark down there you cant see any other way out except the inevitable. That to me meant failure, but I’d failed at a lot of things in life and I didnt want to fail at this, I needed to reach out for help. Thankfully I had people to help me out of the darkness which was a blessing, but not everyone has that.
MHAW is giving people a voice but what about beyond that? Do you intend on promoting positive talk around mental health outside of this week? Will you be promoting a safe environment in which employees can open up without fear of rebuke or formal withdrawal? Do you know that the brain is just another organ in the body that needs to be taken care of?
Mental illness is as common as a cold. Please, let’s not get to the point where people think they have no other way out, that they have failed. It can’t be an option, because failure would mean they would no longer be here….