World Mental Health Day 2018 - Let's Talk
Grab a cuppa, get some chilled out music on and snuggle down for this one; it's important.
Today is World Mental Health Day. It's a day dedicated by the World Health Organisation to talking about mental health all over the world. It's something that we all have and we all need to look after.
Why is it important to talk about mental health?
Some people may think "I don't have a mental health problem, so I don't need to talk about it". The thing is, we all have mental health just as we all have physical health. I'm pretty sure every person in the world has felt anxious, heartbroken, despondent or experienced grief during their lives. They're normal human emotions, and they are each part of the tapestry that makes up our mental health. Even people who don't have a diagnosable mental health problem can suffer with stress or depression, perhaps after a big life event like divorce or bereavement. Stress is such a common feature of our lives now, especially with the world of work as fast-paced as it is. Anybody can succumb to a period of less than optimum mental health, and it is SO important that we are able to admit it and seek help when we're not OK.
I witnessed first hand how quickly a mental health condition can deteriorate and turn everything upside down when I had my anxiety breakdown. I lost my job, a few not-so-understanding friends and was left barely able to leave the house. My whole world collapsed around me. I'm so lucky that my parents and husband were able to support me, emotionally and financially - otherwise I don't know what would have happened to me. I would definitely have had nowhere to live. I would not have been able to support myself, I was incapable of work and also didn't qualify for any benefits because I wasn't deemed sick enough by the government. This is why World Mental Health Day is important, because without pulling myself up by the bootstraps and saying "I need help", I may never have got better.
I did get better, and although it's something I have to manage on a daily (and sometimes hourly!) basis, I'm back in the world and I'm living as a fully functioning adult. My breakdown left me with the realisation that this is just a few steps away from happening to anyone; it could be just around the corner for anybody feeling stressed, depressed or anxious. Since then I have always talked openly about my mental health whenever I can, because it's SO important that it becomes normalised.
Everybody needs to feel comfortable enough to tell their friends, family, and workplaces that they are not OK and need help, and to know that they will not be unfairly stigmatised against, assumed to be faking it or turned away.
How can talking help?
I lost a few friends during my breakdown, because they thought I was a terrible, flaky friend who needed to "get a grip". My friends weren't bad people, they were unfortunately completely misinformed and ignorant of how much mental health can affect a person. I lost jobs, and was told by bosses I needed to stop being off sick because I was letting the team down, as if it were a choice. Since then I have always been open about my mental health condition when starting a new job, because in the last job I had before my breakdown, I hadn't told them about my anxiety for fear of stigma... and it meant that they weren't able to protect me in the way they could have if I'd been honest. I have to jump through a fair few occupational health hoops before I can start a job now, but it means that my anxiety has to be taken into account and looked after.
Not everybody understands what it's like to have a mental health condition. I think it's important that we get to a place where others don't necessarily understand, but can empathise and at least recognise it as real. It's very much an invisible illness, and of all the health conditions I've endured in my 32 years on this planet, I can very much say anxiety has wreaked the most havoc on my physical health out of all of them. I always use the analogy that I don't personally know what it's like to suffer the pain of a migraine, or to undergo chemotherapy, or to have diabetes... but why would I if I have no direct experience of these things? It doesn't mean I don't believe they exist! I try my best to empathise with others that are going through things, even if I don't know what they feel like. You don't have to have suffered through something to show compassion for a person who is.
So, what can you do for World Mental Health Day?
Talking is the biggest way to tackle the stigma. Talking doesn't just mean therapy either; it can be noticing a mate or a colleague who hasn't seemed themselves lately and asking them if they're OK, or if they fancy a coffee. It could be reaching out to someone you know has a mental health condition and asking them if they need anything. It could even be connecting to people on social media and talking about it to a group of people who get it. There are so many ways we can try and break the stigma, and talking is the one thing everybody can do.
How we can help...
Heads Together are running a fantastic Mental Health at Work campaign with Prince William and Prince Harry, encouraging employers to make mental health at work a priority. Their campaign provides a toolkit to help both employers and employees find better ways of working.
Time to Change is one of my ultimate favourite mental health charities, because it's all about talking to specifically break the stigma around mental illness. Their current campaign centres around asking a mate if they're OK - we can all take a minute from our day to do that today!
And of course, you can buy something from us! We donate 10% of all our profits to Mind, who aim to make sure nobody has to face a mental health problem alone by providing comprehensive resources and toolkits to help people understand their own mental health.
We also have a fabulous World Mental Health Day giveaway running over on our Instagram page! We've teamed up with four gorgeous small businesses who also donate to Mind and have mental health close to their hearts, so you can win goodies from all five businesses and help to raise money for Mind at the same time. From us you can win a Be Brave necklace in the colour of your choice... it's a win-win! The giveaway closes at 9pm on Wednesday 10th October.
And remember... #wearelittlebrave. Together we can break the stigma. Go forth and talk, Little Brave Warriors!