So there we have it, another World Mental Health Day finished. A day where the world comes together to raise awareness for mental health.
I’ve said it before, I appreciate the efforts of everyone around mental health designated days, but I’m more about talking openly about it 365 days a year for as long as I possibly can. Why? Because we all have mental health. We all have to deal with it. And a day to talk about it and give it the awareness it currently deserves of course isn’t enough.
But what can we learn from #worldmentalhealthday?
More importantly, what can you do to keep raising awareness around mental health now without waiting for World Mental Health Day 2019 to roll round?
1. Keep Sharing
We underestimate the power of talking, the power of sharing our experiences and the power of vulnerability so much.
When I first opened up about my dads suicide and my own battles with mental health I never intended to get the reaction I did. Simply sharing an honest account of events in a blog post led to 100’s of messages and exposure on The Huffington Post. But even without that exposure, even if just one person read it, I shared because it helped me. I also shared with the thought to help just one other person. But a simple blog post turned into something far bigger than that.
I’ve spoken to countless people who’ve shared their personal struggles with mental health on social media, purely on their personal profiles, to then receive comments and messages from people sharing back.
Don’t underestimate what a share on social media can do for someone, and don’t underestimate the impact it can have on you as well.
Even if you’re not ready to share yours, share something related to mental health. Whether it’s an article, a video, retweeting a tweet or book, with every share you’re still creating an impact.
2. Reach Out To Someone
When was last time you had an honest conversation with someone close to you? Who was the last person you messaged?
Mental health has no face, when someone is struggling they often find it hard to reach out for help. So why don’t you ask them if they need your help first? I’m not just talking about a standard “how are you?” either. I’m asking you to ask twice. Asking someone compassionately whether they’re actually doing ok or no can really help someone in need.
As a society we’re very reluctant to ask if someone’s struggling because we simply fear the response. We fear that we won’t know what to say or do if they are struggling or we worry that they’ll get annoyed at us for asking. But let’s drop those fears, because so many of us live to regret not asking someone when something does eventually happen (me included).
So reach out to someone, a simple message can help break the initial awkwardness of a face to face conversation and don’t forget to check on your ‘strong’ friend either. Just because someone seems to be doing ok, it doesn’t mean they’re not struggling. We all need support for our mental health.
3. Be Honest
This point helps increase the effectiveness of the two previous points… try to be honest.
When we’re willing to be honest and become vulnerable first, we open up the conversation for others to do so too. Please don’t underestimate this. When I become vulnerable, when I share my struggles with mental health first it gives the other person a safe space to share back.
A great example of this was at an event I spoke at in Atlanta 2 years ago. I attended as a guest and speaker, mingling with the audience and making general small talk. Then on the second day, as the last speaker, I stood up on stage and told everyone about my dads suicide and my battles with the grief that followed. Was it hard for me to do? Of course. But what happened was something I’ll never forget. The same people I spoke to less than 24 hours before, were now opening up to me. Some were emotional, some told me things they’d never told anyone, and some told me that they finally felt less alone and understood.
This has continued as I’ve continued to be honest. When I was at my low points, I was crying out for someone I could relate too. I felt alone, I felt isolated and I felt like no one would ever understand. So hearing someone talk openly about their mental health, seeing someone who isn’t afraid of vulnerability can help show others that they’re not alone.
Don’t be afraid of vulnerability. Your honesty can help others feel safe to share too.
World Mental Health Day 2019
So let’s not wait for another year to roll round, instead, let’s continue to talk openly and put pressure on a change within society and the current way mental health is being treated.
A lot of people say that ‘talking’ isn’t enough, but talking helps break down the stigma and current perception of mental health within society, which will eventually lead to more prevention.
It’s amazing what a simple share on social media can do for others.
There’s of course other things you can as well, with fundraising for one of the many mental health charities, volunteering for a mental health charity or going on a course to better understand mental health all being options.
But hopefully these 3 options are simple enough for you to try and action whenever you can.
We all have mental health.
We all will experience struggles with our mental health too.
So let’s stand together to break down the stigma.