Talking About Mental Health: The Brave Thing To Do
Though I initially wondered if the campaign team for Children’s Mental Health Week meant ‘Find your courage’ instead of ‘Find your brave’ for this year’s theme (my brain was stuck on nouns instead of thinking outside of the box), I am truly struck by the depth of the words.
The phrase really does create an opportunity to not only step up to the plate in a big situation, but to do so in what might seem the smallest of matters, too, like, for example, acknowledging that something isn’t right mentally and emotionally and then talking to a trusted person about it.
For instance, as a teenager when I might have somehow been left out of a circle, whether it was intentional or not, I felt quite upset about it but kept it all inside and in hindsight, I can now see how keeping quiet might have impacted my self-worth, my emotional health, putting a blight on my teen experiences.
Still, to express my feelings about what seemed a small matter was a tall order. Quite frankly, it’s a tall order even for an adult sometimes, let alone for a child. Situations can be misunderstood and misconstrued, making matters worse. No wonder so many people keep quiet. No one wants to be chastised or isolated.
For me, this low keyed approached lasted well until a few years ago. Only after I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), that I opened up about my own mental health. Sure, I was quick to see the problems of others, but I found it extremely difficult to see my own issues and talk about them, no matter how small or large.
For instance, while caring for my mother, who had a long-term illness, I often felt beyond depressed and so emotionally tired that I could feel it deep within my bones. I just made it a norm and kept it all in. Reflecting, I wonder if unmanaged grief, along with other stresses, led to GAD.
But with the diagnosis I began to see mental health for what it really is—equally as important and urgent as physical health. In our latest podcast Series 3: Episode 6 – On Social Anxiety, Claire Eastham talks about the importance of understanding this and getting a diagnosis but as her own story shows, getting help is not always straight forward. It is often not only the individual suffering, who might be in denial, but also those around might dismiss the problem or misunderstand it, too.
For example, people with social anxiety are often confused as shy or eccentric, so no wonder they find it difficult to acknowledge or talk about the issue. Furthermore, being pigeonholed or ostracised can have a major impact on self-esteem, robbing the sufferer of the confidence to talk about the condition.
That was certainly my experience as a teenager and when caring for my mother. In the podcast, Claire has some brilliant tips on dealing with social anxiety specifically and one of them is to remember that it isn’t your fault. This tip lends itself to all mental health issues. Understanding this might lead to the willingness to rethink the issue and reach out for help.
Finding the nerves to say something that needs to be said is very much about finding your brave. What a powerful theme for all of us–adults, teenagers and children alike.
For more resources on mental health, check out our other related podcasts as well: Series 1: Episode 6 – Your Mind Inside Out and Series 2: Episode 2 – On Undiagnosed Mental Illness. Listen to UIO wherever you listen to podcasts or subscribe to our rss feed.