A box of frogs

03 October 2016
It’s World Mental Health Day on 10 October. In one sense, well, yes, who cares, awareness days are a bit rubbish. But in another sense, actually I care because mental health is a big thing for me and it’s important so I’m going to use it as a hook for this blog.

Everybody has mental health, and everybody has mental health problems once in a while. It’s like physical health - no-one’s in perfect shape all the time. But if protecting our mental health had the same status as looking after ourselves physically, then a lot of unnecessary suffering might be prevented. And if addressing crises in our mental health was as much a part of our way of being as when something goes really wrong physically, then maybe the UK wouldn’t have 6,000 fatalities from suicide every year.

Lots of people have mental health problems – one in four people every year. It’s really very common. That’s more people than support Manchester United or answer their phones in the cinema. But unlike those two more shameful things, there is still an embarrassment and stigma to talking about mental illness.

Given that all the time we’re surrounded by people who have had, and are having, mental health problems, World Mental Health Day could be a time when all those people shout out loud and proud about it. Then all the people who might not have spoken about their own mental health worries because they’re embarrassed or ashamed might also feel able to do so. And all the people who are currently struggling with mental illness might experience understanding and respect rather than discrimination and fear.

I have depression, from time to time. I have no embarrassment about it, because it’s part of me and I think I’m generally an OK person. When I was younger I had some nasty episodes. Now I don’t, although I’m occasionally a little bit blue for no reason. Not everyone is that lucky, but it’s important that whether things are going well or badly, those of us with direct experience show that mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of, and there is usually recovery, hope and happiness ahead.

That’s important not least in the work we do at Demelza. If you think that living with a life-limiting condition might not affect your mental health then you’re mad (pun intended). That goes for being a child or young person with a serious health condition, or being a parent or sibling. It’s why we offer therapies and other support. In a mentally-friendly world it feels OK to talk about our own mental health with someone, and get help if needed. We can make little worlds like that where we are, in our workplaces, homes, families and friendship groups. And where we have the opportunity, we can do it in our blogs.