The dreaded words- ‘MENTAL HEALTH’. It’s simple, you either understand or you don’t. I think many would be surprised at the daily struggles that many of us actually go through- obviously, to different extents. People usually describe this term with a long-list of illnesses that sound big and scary if you haven’t experienced or witnessed them first hand- depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety, bulimia, anorexia. Correct- those diagnosis’ are within the ginormous umbrella of ‘mental health’- but so are stress, nerves, agitation and insomnia. How many of you can say you have never felt those emotions? (Which are completely NATURAL and INNATE tendencies may I add.) We see it campaigned all over social media, in the news and even in political debates and manifestos. It is now common knowledge that we all have mental health and it is important to care for it- with equal passion many have when working out every day- although this sometimes gets pushed to one side whilst juggling the one-million-and-one things we know we need to do (and have probably already put off for at least a week!).
A few weeks ago I was watching Loose Women (ITV- Weekdays at 12.30) and contrary to popular opinion, I found it completely inspiring. I find it utterly incredible that people in the public eye can openly talk about their personal experiences, knowing fine-well that they will receive a series of troll messages afterwards, and provide comfort to viewers who still feel like a stranger to society tackling some of the worlds most profound unanswered questions- why do I feel like this? Why me? How I can stop it? These public figures divulge on national television- yet us ‘ordinary folk’ make an excuse like ‘I have a headache’ or ‘stomach bug’ when actually we feel mentally unwell. To us it seems more rational to have time to ourselves to overcome a physical illness rather than a mental one. But what actually defines ‘sick’? Do we need to feel ashamed to tell our employers that we are taking a well-needed ‘mental health day’? There is no ‘right’ answer.
I was scrolling down my twitter feed and found a tweet that had over 40,000 likes featuring EXACTLY THIS. @madalynrose (who is REALLY interesting to follow if you don’t already) got this email from her manager when she told him the truth about her reason for her absence from work.
It has now gone viral and spurred other companies and organisations to do the same and decrease the stigma on mental health in the work environment. Madalyn has shown that honesty really is the best policy. To any business owners and those in managerial roles- take a minute to think about how you treat your staff. Work, collage, university, school and being a parent are all difficult tasks independently- now add finance, education, hobbies, eating, drinking, shopping, mountain biking and completing your applications for next year’s Love Island into the mix and what do we have? A walking, living, breathing time-bomb waiting to explode before finally taking a well-deserved break to put itself back together again. We all need to have ‘me time’. So, run yourself a bubble bath, wack your favourite tunes on and read a good book.
Although I’m clearly ‘pro-mental-health-day’ I do think it is important for people to understand the difference between complete and utter mental exhaustion with feeling down in the dumps about a bad day. Mental Health Days for people truly struggling could make the world of difference, though it could gain negative connotations if it begins to appear that people are using this as an excuse to have the day in bed after a night on the town. For many people an organised, activity-filled day can help to suppress negative emotions. We all have different coping mechanisms no matter what our mental health is like in general- it takes experimenting to find those that work for you. The Mental Health Foundation’s recent statistics predict that as many as 1 in 6 of us have experienced a mental health problem within the past week. Remember this next time someone unusually cancels plans or is acting differently to normal. An open-mind and a smile can go a long way.
Kayleigh Rose xx
If you are concerned about your mental health it is always advised to see your GP to discuss how you are feeling. There also a lot of useful contact numbers for support with a range of different mental health problems on NHS Choices- Mental Health Helplines.