Help take the stigma away from Mental Health.
Let me start this article with a question: how are you feeling today? Before you read on just take note of what your first answer is. We will come back to this question a little further down.
In the meantime let’s talk about how the government are currently running a campaign with, ‘Time to Change’. The aim of this campaign is to stop discrimination against mental health. I cannot rave enough about how excellent this is; so little is the general understanding of mental health out there. So much so I really feel the need to break down what is actually meant by the term ‘Mental Health’. Its meaning is simply a level of psychological well-being. So ok, not to infer stupidity, I really am not trying to upset you here but let’s take the meaning of this on to one more level, what is meant by psychological? When we talk of the psychological we are talking about the way our mind processes the universe, it is the way we think, feel and function. So when put in its simplest terms, where does the discrimination in Mental Health start? You would think the stigma around mental health starts at the upper end of mental illness; however I would like to dispute this.
To help me put my point forward, I now remind you of the question I asked you at the very start. How are you feeling today? My first response would be, “I am ok thank you, how are you?” which in return I tend to gain answers of, ‘I’m good’, ‘I’m ok’ or ‘not too bad, and all are followed with a ‘thank you’. Yes that’s right a “thank you!” that ‘thank you’ really is a full stop. Of course there is nothing wrong with such a question or the answers in response, they are after all examples of when we are greeting someone. How about when we are asked by a friend or relative? Well only this morning I put it to the test on my own family. First my partner; he raised his head from his newspaper and looked as if I was being ridiculous and put his head back into a more riveting article he was reading. Clearly I need to ask him that question more often! Then I asked my first born who is in his late teens, his reply was, “achy”. Then my younger son, his reply was, “fine”. My son, whose reply was, ‘achy’, was the only reply that was reflecting a feeling but this was a physical not an emotional feeling. Once again he was not wrong in his reply; there are never wrong answers from such a question. So what is my point, why am I talking about the common response to a greeting? The point I am putting forward to you is, generally as nation we all seem to avoid talking about our feelings, particularly those of a negative nature. Why? Are we possibly worried about being discriminated against if we are too readily showing a discord in the way we may be processing on a psychological level?
Sure not everyone who asks as the question ‘how are you feeling today?’ wants an honest answer that goes into great detail and it is equally important we reply in a way we feel safe to do so. However what we are tending to do is avoid knowing how we are truly feeling for ourselves. If this is common practice for people to feel unwelcome to shire their feelings on a greeting, where else are they feeling unwelcome to shire and does this not in many cases run through to the inner core of people even denying their own feelings?
Having our feelings validated is fundamental to our mental health. Someone who is classed as having a good mental health, will still experience sadness, they can still be emotionally tired on facing negative events. In fact it is not negative feelings alone that cause mental illness. Having negative thoughts and feelings can all be part of a healthy psychological process. However denying this natural process is more likely to cause psychological discord. Therefore if I could give one piece of advice to promote good mental health for each and every person, I would say, take the time to know how you are feeling and I mean both physically and mentally.