Our society is slowly starting to discuss mental health issues, but are we ready to tackle the taboo and change misconceptions for the wellbeing of others?
It doesn’t matter what age you are, your gender, where you come from, if you’re rich or poor, or live an active life: mental health issues can affect anyone.
Sadly, the issue can often be overlooked in society and misconceptions only serve to further exacerbate the issue, causing many of those who are suffering to do so in silence.
But with World Mental Health Day coming up on 10th October, we find out why it’s more important than ever that we start talking about our mental wellbeing.
When people use the phrase mental health, it’s usually to discuss mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, rather than discussing overall mental wellbeing.
It can be easy to forget that mental health is an umbrella term that can be used to describe anything to do with your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing, both in a negative and positive sense.
“None of us is immune to having mental health problems,” explains Dr David Lee, lead consultant clinical psychologist at HealthPlus Children’s Specialty Center and Camali Clinic.
“Our self esteem might plummet at times, we might be under a lot of work stress, family stress or financial stress, and that can all have an impact on our mental and physical health.
“It’s a term that is sometimes misinterpreted because when people talk about mental health they tend to be referring to mental health problems or mental illness rather than mental health as a whole,” continues Dr David.
“When we talk about positive mental health and wellbeing for example, it’s not simply the absence of health problems or mental illness, so we need to think about the way we talk about mental health so we can make progress.”
Starting the conversation
With mental health issues still something of a taboo subject in societies around the world, what can be done to eradicate stigma and give support to those struggling to cope with mental health problems?
“World Mental Health Day is so important because it’s a point in the year where we can raise awareness and try to change the way we think, talk about and perceive mental health,” says Dr David.
“We need to try and build a culture where we can talk about mental health problems in an open way, like we do with physical problems. Because mental health in many cases is not tangible, people can sometimes think that it isn’t as important as physical health.
“But the reality is that physical and mental health are interlinked, so we should be striving for parity between the two and that has to be the goal.”
As the old saying goes, ‘a problem shared, is a problem halved’, and with mental health issues this is particularly pertinent.
Being able to communicate how we’re feeling, be open and honest, and seek reassurance can help immensely, but it can also be difficult to confide in others.
“Often people will not display any signs and will keep their suffering to themselves and they won’t verbalise what they’re feeling,” explain Dr David.
“It’s so important to know that it’s not uncommon and you’re not alone.
“It’s okay to seek help, to ask for help and to be able to speak to someone, be it a loved one, a close friend or confidant as an initial step.
“If you’re really struggling, there is professional help available: counselling, therapy or medication, if necessary.
“If you’re worried about a loved one, don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re doing and let them know that they can talk to you. A little bit of conversation can go a long way.”
That being said, it can still take courage to open up, even with the people we love, but you should never have to suffer in silence.
If you’re struggling, try to take the first step, speak to someone you trust and start off on a journey down a path to better mental health.