Jasmin Gill is a Management Graduate who has been working on a mental health and wellbeing project. She has been reflecting on what she has learnt throughout this project, and why it is important to talk about mental health.
1 February is also known as ‘Time to Talk Day’, which actively promotes having conversations around mental health. In an ideal world, conversations about mental health would be a regular occurrence, and a natural part of day to day life. Unfortunately, this is not the case due to the stigma that still remains about mental health.
What I have learnt during my time in Health Safety and Wellbeing is that everyone needs to be aware of their mental health. Just like the cold weather can affect our physical health, everyone can be affected by the pressures they face in life at times. Statistics report that mental ill health can affect 1 in 4 people in any given year, but this statistic only refers to those who come forward, so it is likely to be higher. The sad truth is that many people with mental illness will not come forward and receive professional help. This can be due to many reasons, with one of the biggest being the stigma and discrimination around mental health.
Take a second and think about what mental ill health means to you. What words come to mind when you think about mental illness? Take this opportunity to write a list of the first 10 words which come to your mind, trying to be as honest as you can. Don’t scroll down the page until you have made your list.
Now take a moment and underline all the positive words you have written. How many words can you underline?
It is not uncommon for mental health to be associated with negative words. I recently completed a google search on words associated with mental health.
Below are the synonyms from thesaurus.com:
INSANITY MENTAL DISORDER PERSONALITY DISORDER SCHIZOPHRENIA CRAZINESS DELUSIONS DEPRESSION
DERANGEMENT DISTURBED MIND EMOTIONAL DISORDER EMOTIONAL INSTABILITY LOSS OF MIND LUNACY MADNESS
MALADJUSTMENT MANIA MENTAL DISEASE MENTAL SICKNESS NERVOUS BREAKDOWN NERVOUS DISORDER NEUROSIS
NEUROTIC DISORDER PARANOIA PHOBIA PYSCHOPATHY PSYCHOSIS SICK MIND
It surprises me that we are in 2018 and the words above are what thesaurus.com classifies as mental illness. Think about someone you know who has mental health issues: do these words describe them?
What words would you choose to describe the person you know? Sometimes without even realising, we are conditioned to believe certain stereotypes. It is easy to see how this might happen when the media (magazines, TV and the movies) always seem to portray mental health in an exaggerated negative way. How do you think people with ill mental health should be described? Think back to that person you know…
I hope one day I can repeat my google search and see lots of positive words associated to mental health.
Remember, that you can’t necessarily see mental ill health. It’s not the same as noticing your colleague has a cold or broken leg.
Due to the stigma and fear of discrimination, it is unlikely someone would come forward even if they needed help, so it is important to actively look for the signs that someone is struggling. Although those with mental ill health have a responsibility to look out for themselves, we also all have a responsibility to look out for one another. I say this because a study carried out at Princeton Theological Seminary, known as the good Samaritan, proved that a “person in a hurry is less likely to help people, even if he/she is going to speak on the parable of the good Samaritan”. It can be argued that our ethics become skewed as the speed of our daily lives increase.
I hope you take the opportunity to take the time to talk this February and if you see someone in need stop and help.
If you need help then please speak to our confidential EAP service 0800 716 017 or alternatively you can contact your GP or local Samaritans. You can find out about our Mental HealthWellbeing Champions by visiting People First.