Today I learned through Jo Middleton’s blog Slummy Single Mummy that today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. We’re all aware that ‘mental health’ or mental health issues exist, so what does this really mean? Raising awareness for something that we all already know about?
But, how much do you really know, and how much of it is an assumption?
If I said to you that someone was a paranoid schizophrenic, you may assume that said person was dangerous to be around. Did you know that, actually, people with paranoid schizophrenia are actually extremely unlikely to be violent to either themselves or others?
If I told you that I knew a person with severe post-natal depression or even post-natal post traumatic stress disorder, you’d probably assume, through no fault of your own, that I was talking about a woman. Did you know that it’s estimated that up to 25% of new dads experience some form of PND or PTSD?
Did you know that, despite certain terms being bandied about and used as common language, true cases of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder actually only account for between 2-7% of the population, whilst people with bipolar are around 0.9% and 2.1% of the adult population?
For me, Mental Health Week is not about making us aware that metal health problems exist, it’s about educating ourselves, smashing the stigma and the stereotypes and trying harder to be compassionate to others. It’s so easy to label people, put them into a box and write them off as ‘mental’ or ‘mad’, but have you ever stopped to think what it’s like to live with these afflictions? NO-ONE would choose to live with these illnesses, people who seriously self-harm don’t do it for attention. I guarantee you, the people who self-harm because they are mentally compelled to are the ones you’d never know about, not the silly school girls comparing chicken scratches on their arms.
Take the time to educate yourselves and perhaps suicide rates, which are higher in the UK than anywhere else in the EU, would drop.
Or don’t. It’s up to you. Just know that no-one is immune to mental illness and knowing how to help someone you love could make all the difference.