Mental health seems to have a negative connotation historically, but it’s important for us to understand what mental health actually is.
There is a distinction between general mental wellbeing and having a diagnosed mental health condition. This post is about mental wellbeing rather than a specific condition, for which we advise you liaise with a doctor.
We all have mental health, in the same way that we all have physical health. And we all have different parameters within our mental health. Everyone has times where they are in good health and times when they are in poor health. And this equally applies to mental health.
If someone has a physical ailment that leads to them being in hospital, it would likely be treated with sympathy and compassion. When that person’s health improves, people forget they even had a period of ill health and their world returns to normal.
But if someone has a mental health ailment and is hospitalised, they are sometimes met with apathy, contempt, and even ridicule. Their community might remember it for a long time, and that person can become alienated, or worse, feared.
This exasperates the problem and is something we really need to move away from as a society. A negative attitude to mental health makes it more difficult for people to recover from a period of low mood, and can also deter people from seeking support in the first instance.
While society is becoming more liberal and accepting of people from all backgrounds and with all kinds of life experiences, there is a lot of work to be done to create a more tolerant world. What we need are more people willing to discuss their mental health openly, to remove the mystery and enigma that surrounds the subject.
Our wellbeing can be impacted by so many factors including finances, job loss, bereavement, and changes to our circumstances. These are reasonably expected to impact our mental health. So for example, if losing a job causes your mental health to decline, it’s important you feel able to seek help and don’t use the fact that your mental wellbeing has declined as a stick to beat yourself with further.
A key step forward is that so many role models and celebrities are now openly discussing their own battles. It’s empowering to see that people of all walks of life have difficulties, and that mental health is indiscriminate and something we all have in common.
There’s so much support out there for people who are finding the management of their mental wellbeing overwhelming. And that support can be accessed remotely as well as face-to-face, both of which are strictly confidential.
Having the discussion with a stranger may be easier, and sharing your journey and difficulties is something you should feel empowered to do on your own terms.
Take away tips for reducing stigma:
- Improving our attitude toward mental health
- Being non-judgemental of those who have had mental health challenges
- Having more open conversations about mental health
- Being kind to ourselves if we have experienced a challenge
- Feeling empowered to seek help
Guest Author: Gary Whitehouse
Gary works as a residential manager with young people with additional needs. He is also a football blogger – you can read Gary’s blog here