May is marked internationally as a moment to raise awareness for mental health. Whether it lasts a week (like in the UK, 10-16 May) or a complete month, let’s put on the table some of the topics we must not forget.
What is mental health?
“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his/her/their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his/her/their community.
Mental Health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life.” —World Health Organization
Also, bear in mind that mental health does not remain still. It fluctuates. Conditions can appear in many different ways. People can be diagnosed with a chronic mental illness or not (BPD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.). People might have a mental illness that has not been diagnosed. Mental conditions can be the result of biological sources, the consequence of negative social dynamics, or a mix of both. People can struggle with their mental health without having an illness or a diagnosis (temporary anxiety, depression). And all of these circumstances are important and must be taken into consideration when we talk about mental health.
Why do we have to raise awareness?
Because mental illness is still surrounded with stigma and shame. People still use words like depressed lightly or bipolar insultingly.
Because stigma and the lack of information prevent most people from seeking professional help.
Because the ultimate consequence of people not treating or mistreating mental illness is death. In 2019, 800 000 people died by suicide across the world. These tragedies can be prevented.
Because amidst of the current COVID-19 pandemic we have heard lots of things about its impact on mental health, lots of governments say this and that, , more famous people champion for the cause; but no relevant policies have been pushed forward or implemented by countries to address mental health seriously.
Because many people with mental illness diagnosis still feel uncomfortable and self-conscious to disclose or even talk about their condition openly at work or with their family or friends, fearing they will be judged, labelled. We haven’t fostered safe spaces.
Because work spaces do not consider any adjustments for people with mental conditions. How many times have you been really honest when calling in “sick” to work rather than feeling empowered to sincerely say ” I feel like shit emotionally and mentally today”?
Because governments and the private sphere loooove showing off their “mental health champion medal” but they don´t really walk the talk. Does your insurance provide a good mental health coverage for you (therapy, meds, etc.)?… Most of them do not even mention it nor include it!
Because there are still so many misconceptions about mental illness. So much misinformation that only strengthens stigma. Although the professional focus is absolutely key for any developments, our stories are still told by others. How are our symptoms? What should they do with us?…One of the reasons we created this space was because we were annoyed at most of the things we found when Googling Borderline Personality Disorder. Bullshit. We can be functional. We can have enriching lives. We can flourish.
What can we do?
Get informed. Look for diverse sources of information.
Constantly reflect on your bias and think of the improvements you can make towards a positive environment that supports mental health.
Share positive information. Not everything about mental illness is drama. There are so many perks to it too!
Get involved. Advocacy does not only involve massive actions. Having discussions on this matter with your immediate group of people, posting relevant messages on social media, volunteering or donating if you can, being there for others. Everything counts!
It’s time to change and to fully embrace the fact that mental health is as important as physical health. For real.
For all of you out there with any mental health condition or struggle: you are not flawed. By embracing some tools and support you’ll thrive. You are deserving of love, happiness, balance and a fulfilling life.
And for all you allies of the mental health cause: help us with a push. Walk by our side. Embrace diversity. We need your support.
Together, let’s raise awareness about mental health!