The World Health Organisation has declared 10 October World Mental Health Day. And as we approach this occasion, it’s important to think about why we celebrate World Mental Health Day. What does it mean to you?
While the experience of mental illness is anything but a celebration, it’s worthwhile pausing to recognise how far we’ve come. Not just how far we’ve come as a society in understanding and accepting mental health issues, but also how far we have come as individuals.
Those who suffer from a mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, will know that any progress is worth celebrating.
But World Mental Health Day is also a reminder of how far we still have to go. There is much more work to be done to remove all the stigma and judgement around mental illness.
How far have we come in accepting mental illness?
In the past few decades we’ve come a long way in accepting and dealing with mental illness. Workplaces are more tolerant, and people are more aware and accepting.
Gone are the days when the diagnosis of a mental illness was quickly ‘hushed up’. Nowadays, more people feel comfortable talking about it with their partners, loved ones, and friends.
Mental illness also has a bigger public profile—being the centre of a number of high-profile advertising campaigns from organisations such as BeyondBlue. And even prominent sports people are beginning to speak up about mental illness.
All this should be applauded. And we should all come together as a community to celebrate World Mental Health Day.
Why is it important to recognise and accept mental illness?
It’s really important that we as individuals and a community recognise and accept mental illness. This promotes healthy understandings of our own mental health, and helps those with a mental illness to accept themselves.
Self-criticism and judgement is a characteristic of a lot of mental illnesses. So the last thing that someone suffering from a mental illness needs is small-mindedness from other people.
Instead, sufferers of mental illness need to be recognised, accepted and loved. Sometimes that is all you can do as a loved one—as the journey is an individual one. But your love and support may help someone more than you know.
By recognising and accepting mental illness, we can also help prevent self-harming and suicide. Sadly, many people who suffer from mental illness either contemplate or attempt suicide.
What else can we do to help those with mental illness?
Mental illness is still misunderstood by a lot of people. And as a result, a lot of fear and judgement is directed towards sufferers.
As we approach World Mental Health Day, the best thing you can do to help those with mental illness is to accept and love them.
This may mean reaching out to a friend, colleague, family member, or loved one just to let them know you are there. You don’t need to make a big song and a dance about it, but just let them know they are appreciated and valued.
And even more importantly—we should all do this for ourselves. Take a moment to think about your own mental health. Whether you have a diagnosed ‘illness’ or not, it doesn’t matter. Like physical health, mental health is something that can always be improved.
Are you being kind to yourself? Do you value yourself? Are you at peace with yourself? 10 October 2018 is a great occasion to answer these questions.
If you’d like to talk to someone, contact Diane Rooker at Pearl Counselling.