Yes, the stigma around mental health has reduced – but it’s still there.
Over the years, I’ve come to realise that not everyone ‘gets’ mental health nor fully understands the impact it can have on someone’s life and their ability to see things in a ‘functional’ way. I use the word ‘functional’ mainly due to the way in which we are told to describe ourselves in a 12-Step Fellowship Group I attend, but also because there really isn’t a wrong or right way to view things and the sooner we can realise that, the easier getting along with others and not judging becomes. I can’t count the amount of times people have used the words ‘crazy’, ‘mental’, ‘hyper-sensitive’ or ‘over thinker’ to describe me in haste and whilst sometimes, my behaviour may seem a little erratic and disproportionate to the situation at hand, I can, with 100% certainty, attribute them to overwhelming feelings that are real, painful and mentally destroying.
You see, the thing which makes mental health difficult to talk about stems from the historical perceptions of it in society and the fact that poor mental health is not visible like more physical diseases such as diabetes, cancer or a broken leg. From the Royal Family and the hiding away of those that had significant mental health issues in their family back when the Queen Mother was alive, to the way in which people like Caroline Flack was treated, it’s evident to see that mental health or the absence of a healthy mind is not something that people feel comfortable talking about; either from a lack of true understanding or ignorance of the extent to which this disease can be so debilitating.
I will hold my hands up and say that prior to being diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety back in 2013, I too fell in the category of ignorance. I clearly remember a point in my life where I couldn’t fathom how someone who looked fine from the outside could also be fighting one of the hardest battles they’d ever have in their mind and invisible to those around them. It just didn’t make sense, until it did.
Again, when I heard about self harming, I wondered how anyone could do that to themselves when they’re so lovely, kind, beautiful and incredibly cherished. However, when facing excruciating feelings of pain and a lack of control over situations around me, I too, though ashamed to admit it, have found cutting to be the only way in which I can get out of my head and focus on a pain I can fix.
Whilst the pandemic has raised awareness of mental health issues and also reared its ugly head in people who previously experienced nothing of the sort, I still feel a stigma exists. I still feel uncomfortable talking about my deepest darkest feelings with some people because I know that from past experience, they prefer the version of me that is ‘fun’, ‘easygoing’ and not having a ‘meltdown’. But the sad thing is, if we as a society can’t accept people for having real, genuine and authentic feelings, nor provide some empathy when they are being vulnerable with us, then what hope do we have for creating a better world; one that’s more inclusive, accepting and content with the way things are?
People are going to experience all kinds of emotions in life; happiness, sadness, joy, pain, anger, fear and hurt. But if we can’t show up for those that we love when they’re going through the more darker emotions, then how can we expect people to show up for us if we find ourselves in a similar situation? If we can’t accept someone and love them unconditionally when they need it the most, how can we expect to develop friendships, relationships and bonds based on honesty, integrity, authenticity as well as empathy? The blunt fact of the matter is, we can’t.
Yes, the pandemic accelerated de-stigmatisation of mental health to an extent, but it hasn’t completely removed it. The statistics regarding mental health are still staggering. When 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year, 792 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide and mental illness is the second-largest source of burden of disease in England, why aren’t we taking more of a stand? Why aren’t we stopping to think how our words and actions may impact another person? Why aren’t we trying to be the best versions of ourselves and support our friends and family?
I don’t have any answers to that, but one thing is clear, whilst we have come a long way in the last 10 years or so, there’s still more we can do. Poor mental health affects everyone; it doesn’t discriminate and it definitely doesn’t just go away because you engage in therapy. It’s a continual process to get to a better place and a battle that never stops – only rises and falls like most things in life. I therefore urge you to try and develop your ability to empathise with others and be a friend, whilst considering how you might feel if your mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, partner or friend decided to end their life and there was something you could have done to help alleviate their suffering?
We only get one shot at life so use it to spread your wings and fly,
The Confused Butterfly
Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.