By Gill Jardine, Counsellor/Psychotherapist
As anyone will know who has read my previous articles, I like to start by defining the subject about which I am talking and here I am, trying to define World Mental Health Day. I see little point in defining the four different words in this title as they are probably self explanatory so I am going to consider what we mean by those words, used together in this instance.
My first thoughts are that the organisers are hoping to raise the profile of mental health across the world, a wonderful aim but I wonder if it is so large that it may lose any influence it may have, simply because it is too big, and could get lost because of its sheer size. If this is so, then perhaps we each need to consider what it means to us as individuals and how we can apply it to a global perspective.
So how do we start? We start with ourself. What do we think of when we consider ‘mental health’? Do we consider our own mental health by taking care of it in the same way as we do our physical health? The term ‘mental health’, and certainly ‘mental illness’, can be uncomfortable terms for many people and carry a history of being avoided if at all possible. We worry that having ‘mental health’ issues will cut us off from the society in which we live so perhaps we think we should not tell anybody. What would our family think, what about our friends, our work colleagues – better keep quiet therefore making it impossible to ask for any help.
If we cannot tell even our closest family and friends, how can we consider such a special day taking into consideration the whole world and its mental health? Whilst the world is made up of different cultures, races, values, languages etc. which are evident by costume, rituals, beliefs, display as well as behaviours, it is also made up of individuals, just like us in their basic make-up. We can see that we have similar physical characteristics so perhaps we can also think that we may have similar psychological characteristics. If this is so, then maybe we share feelings, reactions to life events and attempts to find ways to deal with them. Life events, such as marriage, childbirth, death of a loved one, life-changing physical illness will happen to every one of us – they are unavoidable as we make our way through life and we are going to react mentally to such happenings – how could we not? Our reactions will depend on the event. Clearly the birth of a child brings joy, often to many people, so we are excited, happy, delighted and fulfilled whereas the loss of a loved one brings sadness, pain and disbelief. We need to manage these feelings in order to survive. This is true in both cases. If we are too wildly excited about the birth of a baby and keep celebrating too long, the other things in our life can get neglected. Similarly, with loss, that deep sadness can weigh so heavy that, once again, we can neglect other important parts of life.
One thing that is evident here is, that we could all gain from support in difficult times and celebration in the good times. I wonder if here we have found a way to approach ‘World Mental Health Day’ in that considering and sharing our own experiences of life as an individual we offer ourselves up as a member of ‘The World’.
Writing how we feel and what we have been through can be a therapeutic exercise and sometimes by getting our difficult feelings down on paper we can better understand why we feel the way we do. You could write a letter to a loved one or just to yourself, a poem or a story of an event in your life and see how it feels to get the story out of your system. You can decide later if you want anyone to read it.
Remember, Minds Anonymous provides a platform to share these stories and poems anonymously and join a growing community of writers and readers in a safe space free of judgement.
By putting pen to ink or finger to key you can join Minds Anonymous’ mission to end mental health stigma, one story at a time.
Good luck and take care.