We Need to Change Our Attitude Towards Mental Health

Updated on February 1, 2019
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Anne has a BSc in Applied Psychology and qualifications in counselling, CBT & mindfulness. She teaches mindfulness workshops and courses.

Be it with our friend, family member, community, or even online, we need to talk.
Be it with our friend, family member, community, or even online, we need to talk. | Source

Being Afraid to Talk

A couple of days ago, I had an interesting chat with someone very close to me about morning depression, something she said she suffers from. But she never knew it was “a thing” until she came across the Healthline article linked to here, so she didn’t mention it to many people. As it happens, I do too, and never knew it was a thing, so I never mentioned it to her, or to many other people.

I told her that I've had morning depression since I was a child. It feels like the world is flat and dull and everything is pointless. It seldom lasts long, but occasionally, it lasts all day. Sometimes, it even lasts for weeks. But I was afraid to talk about it because I thought I was the only one, and I was afraid people might think I have a mental health issue. Actually, I was also afraid that I would think I have a mental health issue—and, of course, I don't. I just suffer from morning depression that sometimes lasts all day for weeks.

My friend said "Me too!"

Since I had this chat, I've noticed that I fell less afraid to talk about it.

Talking Helps

As it happens, I did mention this feeling of depression in the mornings to another close friend quite recently. Her response was, “So do I!” and we discussed how this manifests and what we do about it. My friend says that for her, it’s a feeling of dread that something unspeakably horrible has or is just about to happen. She resists the urge to check on all of her loved ones because she knows it’s all in her mind and will pass. But because she knows it’s all in her mind, she doesn’t mention it to many people.

I have various strategies to cope with or dispel the feelings, such as meditation or exercise, and they work most of the time (I feel fulfilled and happy with my life), but I've noticed that I've been feeling a bit better about my morning depression since I talked to my friend.

Morning depression can make it hard to find the motivation to wake up or get out of bed.
Morning depression can make it hard to find the motivation to wake up or get out of bed. | Source

I Also Suffer From Chronic Anxiety

I only realized relatively recently that I've also suffered with chronic anxiety for most of my life, but again, because I didn't know that's what it was, and I didn't talk about it. I thought I was just a "scaredy cat" who lacked self-confidence.

It never occurred to me that I had a mental health issue. That was something other people had, not me. Again, I’ve developed the same methods and strategies to deal with the anxiety, and it no longer prevents me from doing the things I want to do. Since I've been telling people that I suffer from chronic anxiety, that's also been helping too.

1 in 5 Adults in America Experience a Mental Illness

It's true. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness. In Ireland, an estimated 13.5% of the population has a psychological or emotional condition. In England, 1 in 4 British adults experience at least one mental disorder in a given year.

The prevalence of mental illness in these three countries alone suggests that everyone must either have a mental health issue, or have a family member, friend, co-worker or acquaintance who has one. This also suggests that many of the people who are misunderstanding, judging or stigmatizing mental illness, are themselves very close to mental illness. But because nobody talks about it, they might not even be aware that they or someone they know are suffering from it.

Why Aren't We Talking About Mental Health?

The short answer is because there is because mental health is severely misunderstood and often stigmatized. Someone who suffers with depression may not have any obvious reason to feel depressed, but the chemicals in their brain have become unbalanced. This is called clinical depression, and sufferers have the added burden of a lack of understanding from others. For example, they are often asked why they're depressed when everything in their life is okay.

People with schizophrenia also suffer from a lack of understanding from others because so many people think that every schizophrenic is violent (not true), or have a split personality or even multiple personalities (also not true). People with chronic anxiety are often told to "man up" or "get over yourself." I could go on.

The more we talk about mental health, the more people can learn, and the better we can help those who suffer with it.

Why We Need to Talk About Mental Health

We NEED to talk to one another about our mental health issues, no matter how small We need to get them out in the open so that we don't feel so alone, or that we're some kind of failure, or worse, a freak. Mental health should be as out in the open as physical health. By openly discussing it, we not only feel better, we also realize that mental health issues are actually quite common—we are not alone.

We Also Need to Be Honest

Ask someone how they are, and they might tell you they’re “okay.” Or they might say that they just have a headache or the flu—that they're tired or have some other physical ailment or illness. But fewer people will tell you that they're suffering from depression or anxiety; even fewer will say they're feeling suicidal.

Talking About Suicide

Talking can make us feel better. Just talking to someone who is suicidal can actually save their life. Even a total stranger who stops to ask, "Are you okay?" or just to make a remark about the weather can turn someone away from their fatal intention.

The video below is a story about just that.

Small Talk Saves Lives - Samaritans

Would You Tell Your Employer or Co-Worker About Your Mental Health?

If you go for a job interview, you might reveal to your prospective employer that you have diabetes or asthma, but that you have it under control with medication or diet. Or you might tell your co-workers that you have a bad back, gammy knee, or poor eyesight. If you've come through a more serious illness, such as cancer, you might even tell them about that.

However, I know of few people who will reveal at a job interview or to their co-workers that they have, or even had, a mental health issue, whether they have it under control or not. And this is because of the very real fear of being stigmatized and stereotyped.

Interestingly, the statistics seem to show that most people don't mind working with someone who has a mental illness. For example, in a 2016 survey in Ireland, 70% of people surveyed said they would be willing to work with someone with a mental health problem. In England, the 2016 National Attitudes to Mental Illness Survey revealed that roughly 80% of participants were willing to work with sufferers of mental illness. Unfortunately, in America, only 59% of people said they were comfortable working with someone who has a mental health issue.

Talk, Listen and Learn About Mental Health

This needs to change, and there are people out there who are trying to bring about that change. I'll list some of them below. But the greatest change can begin with you. Talk about your mental health, listen to others when they talk about their mental health, and we will all learn from one another.

Mental illness is not a sign of weakness—it's a common human condition. Let's deal with it together by talking about it.

Organizations That Are Trying to Change the Way We Think About Mental Health

Name of Organization
Mental Health America
National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI)
Health Service Executive (HSE)
Time To Change
See Change

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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    © 2019 annerivendell


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