Mental Health Awareness Month
Recently a close friend of mine opened up about her mental health problems. Perhaps unusually, I hadn’t really known anyone with a mental health illness before uni, so I’ve been learning about certain issues and how best to help when I’m needed. I know I can’t offer much of a long term solution, but being available for a chat or a movie or whatever they fancy is important for knowing I’m here for them. I didn’t even know it was Mental Health Month until a few days ago, so this is just a little blog about mental health awareness and hopefully I can make some of you more aware too.
Once she had told me, certain pieces started to fall into place. Behaviour that had seemed strange at the time but had been brushed over suddenly fit in with her illness, and although this helped make sense of some events, it demonstrates how I and others had been so ignorant to her illness. I’m not saying I should have played detective with certain clues, but just been more understanding when actions that to me seemed odd happened, then perhaps she wouldn’t have felt ashamed of her illness.
My friend told me about how when she shared the news with other people, they attempted to make it about them and made her feel bad for not having told them earlier. This really angered me, as if someone comes to you with a problem, it’s because they feel confident in you to help and you should definitely make them a priority. That’s not to say you should endanger your own well-being, but if you are someone’s confidante it’s their decision to make, just like you may not share all your secrets with them.
Not that mental health should be a secret. My friend asked me not to share her illness with anyone, and of course I respect her wishes, but I don’t like to think of her being embarrassed by it. I’m sure that’s easy for me to say and I don’t pretend to understand the ins and outs of her disorder, but mental health really is something we should be open to talking about. It’s called mental health awareness, not understanding, for a reason. Although some aspects can be hard to comprehend, awareness should be shown for those suffering, or awareness that anyone could be suffering and respect given for anything they need to do to help themselves.
I hope this blog has raised some of the problems in our society concerning mental health, and I completely include myself when I write about ignorance towards mental health. Especially in this exam period, certain symptoms may be exacerbated with stress, so please be aware and respectful for those that may be suffering around you, and if you need help yourself, know that there are people in the university and among your friends that you can turn to.