One in four people will experience a mental health problem over the course of their lifetime. That means it’s highly likely that someone you know will suffer from a mental illness at some point. So why we do not talk more openly about it?
When I was first diagnosed with depression, I had no idea what to do about it or where to turn. I had probably been suffering with it for years by that point but I just didn’t realise it. Mainly because I had very little awareness about it myself and didn’t recognise the symptoms when they arose.
READ MORE – What Depression Feels Like for Me
Had I had more awareness, I could have probably stopped my depression in its tracks whilst it was still relatively mild. Instead, it was left to develop into a full on serious depressive episode that stopped my life in its tracks for a full six months.
That is why I think it is so important for people to have open and honest conversations about mental health. To help people recognise when they need to seek help and make them more likely to seek that help by reducing some of the stigma around it.
READ MORE – What to Do If You Think You Have Depression
Even though discussions around mental health are becoming more commonplace, there still remains a huge stigma. It can make you feel as though opening up about your own struggles will leave you exposed to other people’s judgements and assumptions.
This can be particularly true in the workplace where opening up about depression and anxiety can feel particularly taboo. I have worked with colleagues who still believe that an employer can give you a bad reference if they know that you have mental health problems.
I decided early on to be very open about my own personal struggles with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. Once I started to talk to other people about it I realised that it is way more common than I ever would have thought.
Being honest with people helped connect me with other people and made me feel less alone. It enabled me to build an amazing support network that was vital for getting me through some of the darker days. I am constantly surprised by how many other people have had their own struggles too. And by understanding their struggles, I was better able to understand my own.
And then there is the added benefit of improving other people’s awareness around mental health. I have heard so many people describe depression or anxiety as ‘something to snap out of’, ‘attention seeking’ or something that can be tackled by ‘getting out more’ without having any real understanding of the illnesses themselves. Or even any understanding that they are actually illnesses at all.
READ MORE – What Not to Say to Someone With Depression
For those not struggling with mental health problems themselves, a greater awareness would enable them to better help and support friends and family members who may themselves be experiencing depression or anxiety.
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