Last week was Mental Health Awareness here in the UK, and with each year that passes, more and more of us are opening up about our experiences, using this week in the calendar in particular to highlight the daily battles that we face.
It is estimated that one in four people are affected by their mental health, making it significantly more common than previously thought. With anti-depressant prescriptions alone up in the UK by 108.5% between 2006 and 2016, the state of our mental health is fast becoming an epidemic.
So why am I only highlighting this now, rather than the week itself?
Honestly? My own mental health struggles.
Whilst on one hand it is so beautifully empowering to see such brave souls opening up about the hardships they have faced and are facing in their lives, giving others permission to speak up and normalise what is still very stigmatised, there is also the risk of a certain pressure being felt to divulge your inner most feelings before you are ready to articulate them. Arguably exacerbated by existing mental health conditions, namely anxiety and depression, the fear of speaking out and being heard authentically is paralysing.
Having lost my Dad nearly seven months ago and still being very much in the throws of grief, attempting to accurately articulate my feelings around myself and such a life changing loss is a challenge I’m not quite ready to attempt to pursue in the public domain. I am very fortunate to have wonderful listeners in the form of my Mum and my Boyfriend who support me in every way possible and that I can share with when I need to. Right now, this is the extent to which I wish to share my own struggles, and it took a lot this week to remember that this is more than okay. We must choose to navigate our own journeys in accordance to what suits us best, not because of those around us.
This being said, there are also plenty of people doing an amazing job at sharing their own experiences which in turn can help to feel many others feel less alone and provide them with the courage to speak up. You never know what just one sentence could do to save someone’s life.
It is important to remember that regardless of whether you share online with a whole community of people or whether you share only with one person in the real world, your experiences are no less valid or meaningful. Being able to talk about what you’re going through and share your burdens is one of the most valuable acts of self care you can do for yourself, in whatever capacity you choose to do so.
Just remember, you are never alone.
Below are a list of organisations doing their bit to support the conversation around mental health, providing help to those who need it:
Heads Together: https://www.headstogether.org.uk
Mental Health UK: https://mentalhealth-uk.org
Young Minds: https://youngminds.org.uk