Mental health… A spectrum, not a defining characteristicNovember 8 2018
We shouldn’t take for granted that we are living in a time where mental health is spoken about in all pillars of society from the House of Commons to lyrics in pop music. This hasn’t been the case for anyone in living memory.
The British “stiff upper lip” has always been celebrated but we should also be cautious of its implications for many men and women. Bottling up emotion; especially for men in fear of being seen as weak (or in today’s society… a snowflake) has had fatal consequences for Britons young and old.
The refusal to open up about depression, stress or feelings has those suffering into believing they are not ‘normal’: This reaction can send those suffering into a negative spiral in which the escape could have just been a chat with someone we trust. This is why it’s our duty as a member of a conscious, empathetic society to look out for those we interact with.
Although the tell-tale signs are traditionally characterised simply as quietness; the reality requires a much more self-reflective approach. When we are at our lowest, the age old saying suggests “we take things out on those closest to us”. This is absolutely true with depression, anxiety and other mental struggles. We become impatient, snappy, disinterested and generally difficult to be around which in turn requires our closest to become the polar opposite… patient, understanding and reflective in our reactions in spite of the testing behaviour directed at us.
With the spotlight on mental health in popular culture comes the inevitable categorising and throwaway language which makes one of the most complex conditions appear far too black and white. We have been led to believe that although more of us suffer from symptoms than previously believed, that there are those immune. Mental health is a spectrum into which every living person fit; not a defining characteristic. How we experience it depends on things sometimes out of our control such as life experiences, our ability to remain positive and even the company we keep. How we feel inside could change drastically from one day to the next and even those who are seemingly void of such fate are as susceptible as those who suffer for months on end. Self-doubt, lack of confidence or lack of belief in our anxieties lifting is experienced by everyone and those who seem in the largest cliques and full of life are often the biggest sufferers when the audience has left. Existing in a world where everyone competes online for the most lavish lifestyle it’s easy to believe we are getting it wrong.
Many of us overcome mental health through fortune and different means but must be cautious that we don’t slip back to the negative end of the spectrum for too long when we do. As long as we have a living conscience we remain on the spectrum and despite feeling on top of the world at times we’ll always remain reactive to everyday events (or even lack of events). It’s this realisation that helps us to combat our mind, focussing on helping those around us and never taking ourselves too seriously.
By acknowledging the needs of our friends, family and colleagues we can set aside the negative thoughts for a while and by keeping great company we can always be brought down to earth with banter whenever we fail to do so (as long as we identify and embrace positive banter). Acknowledging that we can help ourselves through supporting and receiving support; it helps to keep us focussed on remaining mentally resilient.
The Mental Health Foundation do some great work on highlighting mental health awareness.
This is an excellent example of their work:
Stand-up comic, writer and eating disorders campaigner Dave Chawner talking openly to us about his experience of stress and its cumulative effect, stress and modern life and shares some of his coping strategies.
There are some amazing organisations that anyone can go to should they need help:
MIND – provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Helpline: 0300 123 3393
Papyrus – is the national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide. Helpline: 0800 068 4141
Samaritans – offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you. Helpline: 116 123
Sane – work to improve the quality of life for anyone affected by mental illness. Helpline: 0300 304 7000