October is Mental Health Awareness Month, and part of this is raising awareness of mental health issues, and trying to raise public understanding of these conditions. As a quarter of us will experience some form of mental health problem in our lives, be this depression, schizophrenia, ocd or some other form of illness, raising awareness of these issues is essential so people have increased understanding of what others face in their lives.
However, this understanding is not always present. Mental Health problems ARE real, and therefore deserve to be treated with the same respect as you would treat other issues. Yet, maybe because mental health is still so taboo, people think it is okay to ridicule people, okay to tell them that they need to ‘snap out of’ depression. It is not okay. If you wouldn’t tell somebody with a serious health problem, such as cancer, to ‘get over it’, why is it okay to tell somebody with depression they need to get over it? Maybe you think cancer isn’t as serious as depression – but people can and do die of both. Surely if people are dying it is serious?
It is these attitudes that need to change if we are to make any progress with understanding of mental health. It is a scary enough time to suffer with mental health, it can be very isolating, the last thing people who are going through one of the scariest times in their lives need is to be told they need to ‘get over it’ and ‘pull themselves together’. If you wouldn’t say it to somebody with a physical illness, then don’t say it to somebody with a mental illness. They are both equally real, and both equally serious. And if people can understand this, maybe Mental Health Awareness Month will be a success.
By Rosanna Swaine