Share your mental health story
For a very long time I kept my mental health a secret. For over ten years I hid my worries, my low mood, my urges to self harm and my suicidal thoughts to myself. There was a part of me, a big part, that I was keeping secret. Keeping my anxiety and depression a secret was actually adding to my stress. It wasn’t making my mental health problems go away and it wasn’t making them any easier to live with.
Every year on Time to Talk day Time to Change encourage all of us to be more open about mental health – whether we talk about it or listen to others. Opening up about your mental health is not easy but here are five reasons why it is really important that you do:
To help yourself
As I said above I tried keeping it a secret for a long time and that didn’t work, so why not try being open? Be open about your mental health to get help, hear a different view and find a community of like minded people.
I find opening up online fairly easy now that I have been blogging for a couple of years. But you don’t have to start your own blog! Comment on posts you read and share your feelings on social media. Recently i’ve opened up on my facebook page and instagram about how I’m struggling. I’ve got involved with twitter chats all about mental health.
Several times I’ve opened up to medical professionals. Last week I went to see my doctor about my antidepressants. And I’ve spoken to counsellors and mental health nurses before. It is really hard to open up to a stranger but when they’re medical people you just have to bite the bullet and start that conversation.
Where I really need to improve talking about my mental health is in real life as well as my online life. I still find it hard to talk about it with my friends and family. My go to answer to ‘how are you?’ is still ‘I’m okay’ or ‘I’m tired’ rather than I’m feeling a bit low at the moment. I don’t want to worry the people closest to me and I don’t want them to see me any differently. I struggle to express myself in words, by typing them online I have time to think about what I mean and how to share it.
To help others
But opening up about your mental health can help more than just you, it can help others too. Sharing your story will help other people. Hearing that other people experience these things helps to know that you are not alone. Isolation and shame can be worse than the mental health condition you’re experiencing. Sharing your story will help other people who are going through similar things feel less isolated.
Online there is a mental health community full of people who understand how you feel. There are peer support networks online and in person. You can share experiences, coping strategies and the ways that you get and stay well. Sharing your story can help others to not be afraid, to seek help and support.
To raise awareness
There are lots of people who know very little about mental health and think that it doesn’t affect them. However mental illness will affect 1 in 4 of us meaning that all of us will be affected one way or another.
Sharing our mental health stories and experiences helps to teach people who are lucky enough not to have experienced it themselves. It’s a very hard thing to understand and the more of us who can share what we are going through the more people who will be more aware of mental health.
To fight stigma
As I’ve said mental health is a difficult, confusing and scary thing to understand. This confusion can lead to fear, stereotypes and stigma. Experiencing this can make mental health conditions much worse. Opening up and sharing our true stories can challenge this stigma. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our mental health. By sharing our stories mental health can be normalised. We can turn it into something which cannot be disgraced and stigmatised.
To campaign for change
By sharing your story and experiences you can use your voice to make a stand and campaign for change. Speak out and tell the world what you have experienced. There is still discrimination, stigma and poor treatment and medical practice out there. Stand up and add your voice to the campaign for change. Write to your MP, write a complaint, raise money for charity and get involved in local and national events and campaigns.
Last year I used my New Years Resolution to be more open about my mental health and I complained to a national newspaper about the language they used, written a piece in my local, regional, newspaper about mental health in the workplace and raised money for MIND charity. What can you do?