Can we talk about all the people who are fighting against the voices in their head?
The people who are anxious and scared of the future.
The people who are depressed and stuck in the past.
The people who think they are too fat, too skinny, too lumpy, too scrawny.
The people whose insecurities plague them every day.
And all the people who go through any of the above and are too afraid to talk about it.
Something happened recently that really shocked me to the core. It was the suicide of a young adult who had single-handedly been dealing with mental health problems. He didn’t tell anyone that he had depression. No one knew about it until his life ended and that truly scares me.
Quite frankly, it scares me that as a society we are still stuck with this inability and fear to talk about our feelings. Yes, I know that things are improving. Mental health is becoming less of a taboo. But that is just the thing – it’s still a taboo. Even as I write this, I am thinking about all the times that I have struggled in the past. Suffered and not told anyone. Eating disorders, anxiety, panic attacks and depression. A few years back, I could count on one hand the number of people who knew that I had suffered with these issues. Why? Because I am also a victim of this taboo.
I was too afraid to talk about my mental health.
Talking about it made me feel like I was accepting that these issues had happened. Admitting to my friends and family was also admitting to myself. I suffer with mental health.
As well as this, I didn’t want to accept that I was prone to these issues, because then I wouldn’t be normal.
But what is normal? Because mental health is one of the leading causes of ill-health in the world and one in four people will suffer from it in the duration of their life (WHO, 2018). So – what is normal? Suffering from a mental health disorder sounds pretty normal to me. In fact, it sounds pretty common. Yet, we are still scared to talk about it.
Truth is, there is no normal. It’s taken me a long time to realise that. But I’m getting better. Whilst I was unable to talk about it at the time, I can now openly talk about the mental health issues that I have struggled with in the past. It feels good. My friends know me better. My own mother knows me better. Consequently, I am more secure. But an unexpected advantage of this entire learning process has been the discovery that vulnerability is powerful.
Vulnerability can open a person up and make them approachable. It unites people in ways that are entirely unique. Likewise, it puts people in tune with each other. Certainly, it has put me in tune with those around me. I take the time to ask, listen and assess. I offer the time that I’ve got. Because truly, I never want anyone dear to me to suffer silently with mental health issues – it’s too dark of a place to travel through on your own.
So what can we do to break this taboo?
We can try and be the light. We can be open with each other.
Check in with your friends. Give your mum a call. Say hi to your brother. Ask your waitress how her day is going. Smile at strangers. Shout someone a coffee. Accept your vulnerabilities. Be open with yourself.
You never know what is lurking beneath someone’s surface and how much a random act of kindness could change the course of somebody’s day.
Be the light.
If you need to talk to anyone about something that is bothering you, you can call Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Call 116 123.