Mental health has recently taken centre stage on the social agenda and we couldn’t be happier about it. The larger community’s response to mental health has typically been distinctively different from that of physical ailments, and mental illness often goes unnoticed or is dismissed due to its lack of observable “symptoms”. There is wide misconception about the seriousness of mental illness, and this dismissive attitude has created a response of guilt and secrecy from the mentally ill.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenges mental illness brings – to both sufferers and their loved ones, and ultimately to society. As someone who has been on both sides of the fence and can certainly relate to this feeling of disempowerment I can sympathise with the feeling that to ignore the issue might be the easiest approach. However, it is important that we no longer bury our head in the sand and tackle these issues head on. Each of us has the ability to have an impact, whether it be on an individual level, as an active member of society or even on via political platforms. Here’s how!
In the face of adversity, we must never overlook our individual ability to make a difference. There are many behaviours we can adopt that make a real difference to those around us suffering from a variety of mental illnesses – most importantly through our use of language.
On the most basic level, we simply need people to talk! Talk about mental illness widely and freely, and in doing so you will create an open dialogue. Because the symptoms of mental illness are very rarely physical, or at least not easily identifiable to others, there is a lot of shame and secrecy surrounding the issue. A contributing factor to this is people’s response to those who do open up about their condition – they are often met with remarks such as “Are you sure? It doesn’t really like you have that condition” or “I have a friend who suffers from that and she definitely has it worse! You should be really grateful yours isn’t that bad”. Comments such as these come from a place of naivety, not of malice, yet they can be really damaging to a person who has chosen to show their vulnerabilities. The amount of time people spend explaining their experience of mental illness is exhausting, and often results in reclusion and secrecy, to avoid yet another uncomfortable interrogation.
Here are some quick go-tos:
- Be aware
- Educate yourself
- Never question someone’s illness, or tell them you know better
- Be aware of the language you use
- Inform yourself of how to talk about mental illness in a positive way
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
There are many avenues for instigating awareness and change within your family and social circles. Beyond promoting positive use of language and awareness through your own actions, how about boldly encouraging others to do the same? Start with the family, and make sure that everyone in your immediate circle are aware of the hardships that people affected by illness face each and every day. What about the workplace? Show initiative by encouraging greater education and engagement within your workplace! Here at Inspired Adventures we nominated a day for staff to wear their yoga gear, bring a $5 donation for a mental health charity, and spent our lunchtime together bringing awareness to and checking in with how each person was feeling. Checking in with one another on a regular basis, and promoting happy and healthy work/life balance is a great way to create a safe and open environment for staff.
You could always take your involvement a step further, by seeking out and taking part in mental health awareness campaigns! Signing up to email alerts, newsletters and Facebook groups is a sure fire way to stay up to date with the events and campaigns happening in your area.
As members of a democratic society, we must make the most of our collective voice; power of the people (i.e. YOU!) is an incredibly influential tool and we should use this as best we can to create the changes we want to see. While we don’t have a say in the day to day decisions of our government, we can engage in campaigning and lobbying initiative as a way to grab the attention of our politicians, and demand a government which provides the services and support we wish to see surrounding mental health. As it stands, access to public mental health services is difficult at best, which has driven mental health services to become highly privatised, and easily accessible to only the wealthy and elite. As such, many suffering from mental illness push their need for medical assistance aside, perpetuating the issue and leaving them feeling vulnerable and powerless. Jump on board with mental health campaigns, or use a platform to create your own, and watch the amazing snowball effect that happens when people take the time to care.
- If you’re passionate about mental health issues, visit our calendar to find the perfect challenge and mental health charity to support!
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