105 Organisations have now signed up to the #time4change Mental Health Charter. In reality that 105 individuals that have gone to their partners, Boards, associates and said that Mental Illness is real and that we ALL have a moral obligation to do something about it. More than that it's 105 people that weren't afraid of saying those 2 words....'Mental Health'
Today is World Mental Health Day, as ever their message is to talk. This year their hashtag is #Iamwhole with a campaign for "Tea and Talk"
Mental Health is such a taboo in the UK we have to be persuaded to 'talk' about it. Man when I get ill I want everyone to know, so that I can garner at least one version of 'poor you', 'are you OK?' 'can I help?'. Yet when people are ill, but not in a physical way, there is often no conversation. Even with themselves, the conversation can simply be 'it'll pass'.
I used to suffer from migraines. I wanted everyone to know about it. I'd walk around with the face of someone begging 'recognise that I'm ill'. People were thoughtful, asked me if light was bothering me (did I need to sit in a dark room for a bit)? Was noise an issue? As maybe discussions could happen somewhere elsewhere.
What if you're depressed though? What do you do then?
The general population think that the depressed person should either 'pull themselves together' and just 'get on with it', they think that it's 'a phase'. I mean. . . if they were really depressed they'd be crying,wouldn't they? They'd be the person huddled up in the corner of the room, with everyone else feeling awkward about it?
So here's the thing. . . very often the most severely depressed person is the person sitting next to you smiling. Asking you if you're OK? They're probably listening to your problems. The depressed person is seldom the one that you think.
What about the 'anxious' person - well they all need to just 'take a deep breath' because it'll be 'OK'. You encourage them to go and do the activity that's making them anxious, as 'they'll feel better when they're there'. Anxiety is surely just nerves, butterflies in your tummy?
Here's the thing though. . . those bits of advice, however well meaning they might have been, might have just been wasted air. Did you ask them what they needed to help them in that moment? Does your 'anxious' mate prefer to be alone or with company during an anxiety attack? Have you asked them? Have you found out what their anxiety attack looks like? It might not be the panic attack that you've heard people talk about. I mean what exactly is a panic attack anyway? Then you see one - it scares you because you've never seen one before; someone gasping for air, scared that they just can't take air in, scared that they might even die, the sensations are so bad? Everyone is so different.
Eating Disorders are easy to spot though, aren't they? I mean people just suddenly look thin, and you ask them if they're OK...and then you tell them they need to eat more. Sorted!
What about Bulimia though - they tend not to lose the weight? How do you spot them?
We need to talk EVERY day about Mental Health, just like we do EVERY day about our physical health. If you have a cold...don't you tell people when they ask you if you're OK? That's a viral thing, a thing that couldn't be helped, a thing that took over your body that you had no say in. My migraines were physical, I had no say in them, they just arrived and I had to deal with them. Mental Health is a thing that takes over your brain that you have no say in. What's the difference?
When you're physically ill don't you look for treatment to help you get better? Why is it so different for Mental Health?
This week I was thrilled when the owner of the website 'Not A Pushy Mum' got in contact with me to find out how they could get involved in #time4change. They have a unique 'in' with the parents of children going into the arts. As we're hearing in nearly every government review at the moment Mental Health in the young is on the increase. If all those parents that are so desperate for their children to do well in life read the charter, they might, just might read something that starts to ring some bells for them. Then if they're very brave. . . they'll address what they've just discovered. They'll do this because they'll want the best possible start for their child's life (even though they might be scared of what they've discovered/realised)
The majority of colleges have now had their Fresher's week - I'm already hearing the figures of people that have presented at counselling services looking for support. The figures are staggering. The person that once mentioned a Tsunami is not wrong.
Many students arrive at college wanting to be different, wanting to reinvent themselves. It is BRILLIANT when part of that reinvention is dealing with a mental health issue. It's sometimes easier to address this when away from your parents.
How sad then that I'm also hearing about long waiting lists, about counsellors not even returning calls as a 'holding' strategy.
We need more colleges on the #time4change charter. We then need to sit down and look at how we talk together, in a way that promotes best practice, and in a way that maybe manages to support each other too.
These are the stats released today:
These well-meaning campaigns should not be happening, because Mental Health is real, it's happening, and we should be discussing those illnesses like we discuss a migraine or a cold.
#time4change is ongoing. Are YOU an individual that could make a difference today?