World Mental Health Day 2017
Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day, as organised by the World Federation of Mental Health. For the past 25 years, WMH Day has sought to promote mental health and bring about a greater understanding of the issues that surround mental health. Since 1996, there has been a theme for each WMH day, and this year’s is ‘Mental Health in the Work Place’.
I don’t have any experience in that area, especially not to comment on, but I thought I’d take this post in a different direction. I don’t want this day to go unmentioned, as I truly think it’s too important to be ignored.
Talking to people
I sort of feel like mental health is slowly losing the stigma that it may once have held, yet there is still an inherent fear to talk about it in normal, every-day conversations. I’m not excluding myself from that in any way – I would prefer to hide in my own little world if I had the choice. Yet, I know that choosing that option is unhelpful, and long term, is really unhealthy.
One of the things I have learnt over the last few months is the value of talking to people. Even if it’s just a small group of trusted, close friends, having someone who’s there and willing to listen, it makes the world of difference. It’s not been easy, and I still find it hard to open up. I can count on one hand the number of people who have a better insight into the real ‘Hannah’, but hopefully that will change more this year. And hopefully, I’ll get a better understanding of who Hannah is.
‘It’s Okay Not to Be Okay’
I’m also in the process of learning how to be kinder to myself. This is a hard one – but a valuable lesson to learn, and I’ll be glad of it, when I’ve cracked it. I think it’s taking the time to stop, and be content with the idea that ‘It’s Okay Not to Be Okay’ – something which is almost the opposite of what I feel society tells us these days. It’s a particular challenge for me, as I’ve also sought those perfectionist standards. My immediate reaction is to put up masks: so that to the outside world, everything is going swimmingly. But in reality, the walls are starting to crumble, and it’s been harder to keep the masks up. I’ve started trying to reach out to people – both in terms of friends/family and professionals, by going to see a doctor. This was terrifying – possibly more than that, and the drive to the surgery was one of the hardest journeys I’ve ever had. But, despite how petrified I was to put myself out there – becoming vulnerable – I was met with someone who listened.
The other place I turn when things get too much, or even when things are going well, is to God. His Word, prayer, and plugging in to some worship music to tune out the world are some of my coping mechanisms.
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
I’m not trying to sugar-coat anything here, nor say that the road will be straightforward, but I guess I’m just trying to say one thing. There is an immense power that comes through sharing a burden, and talking to someone. If you’re struggling with something that just weighs on you; that is constantly on your shoulders, maybe today is the right time to take steps to change that.
Please don’t struggle in silence. You’re worth more than your own silence. This World Mental Health Day, make it a day for new conversations, new directions and the beginnings of new journeys.