Mental health...... a modern word for a modern world. Both are fraught with misgivings, misunderstandings, confusion and complexity...and both you can get lost and isolated in....yet we are all aware of both but, more often than not, with limited knowledge. Sometimes we see but we don’t fathom. We hear but we don’t understand. We try to make head or tail of a situation but can not find our way or answer. These things happen to all of US.... it doesn’t just happen to THEM.
In this four part series I want to look at different ways in which mental health is a universal subject and condition which affects ALL of us, and why it shouldn’t be a stigma solely attached to a certain type of person.
I’m sure most of you have heard of the 6 Degrees of Separation, it’s where you can be connected to anyone on the planet in just 5 steps from yourself. The maths basically says that most people will know at least 44 people therefore 44^6 = 7.26 billion meaning we have a connection to anyone in the world via 6 steps. Mental health today is much much closer to us than that. Nearly everyone will know someone, if not themselves, who has suffered with mental health at some point, but what do I mean by mental health...suffering? Here is a list of just some of the most common reasons for a person to attain mental health issues. I feel it is important to list all of these for reasons that will become clear after:
Childhood abuse, trauma or neglect Social isolation – Loneliness Experiencing discrimination and stigma, inc racism Social disadvantage, poverty or debt Bereavement Severe or long-term stress Long-term physical health conditions Unemployment or losing your job Homelessness or poor housing Being a long-term carer for someone Drug/alcohol misuse Domestic violence, bullying or other abuse as an adult Significant trauma as an adult, such as military combat, being involved in a serious accident in which you feared for your life, or being the victim of violent crime. Physical causes (head injury/neurological condition such as epilepsy – can impact behaviour or mood).
This list is just some of the main causes for someone to suffer mental health issues. I'm sure as you read through it, more than one of those rang true to you, either for yourself or someone you know. My reason for writing that list was to demonstrate that today, mental health comes in all shapes and colours, comes into life in all routes and paths, and touches all of us in some way... much much more than the 6 Degrees of Separation. I would almost be bold enough to say it boils down to a maximum of 3 degrees of separation... meaning that any of you reading this, or anyone in the world for that matter will know a friend of a friend or family member who has been affected by one or more of the list above! Showing that in reality it is US...... not THEM.
Awareness is slowly creeping forward, and some may say not fast enough, however, we need to be patient as awareness only generates itself the more a person is willing to come forward and get help with their issues. Some issues are more embarrassing to some than others. So people don’t have the confidence or they are feeling trapped and are unable to seek help. Even though in some ways we are all different, we are also all the same, it depends how you break it down and look at it. For example, as humans, we all live inside where we can, be it a house, hut, cave etc... we all grow hair. We all wear some form of clothing and we all eat meat and or vegetables... put us together like this and we are all the same. But breaks us down into different pieces/sections, we become different. Things that we worry about or care about for example. What type of clothes we choose to wear, our choice of music, what we choose to eat, and how we choose to treat others. All these types of things make us slightly different from the next, however underneath we are fundamentally the same. Therefore when looking at mental health, and especially for someone who believes that they suffer alone, it’s important to realise that this affects all of ‘us’ and not just ‘them’....
In my next 3 articles I want to look at ways of improving your own, but also others mental health. We will be looking at embracing the anxiety of uncertainty, talking and listening to others, but to begin with, seeking new and diverse experiences. These are psychological elements to help us cope and train our minds to combat the stress and distress we feel when supporting someone or dealing with our own mental health. With the right tools, patience and an open heart we can all help to help each other. Just remember, it’s about us not them.