When you are diagnosed with a mental health problem, it is easy to feel as though you are the only person in the world to have suffered with one. It is common to feel isolated, scared and like no one understands. They say that 1 in 4 people suffer from a diagnosed mental illness, which is clearly a lot. However, the key word is ‘diagnosed’, meaning the person has been to a psychologist or a GP who has told them that they are suffering with a mental illness. This statistic does not consider the people who have not been formally diagnosed but are still suffering. In light of this, I would suggest that many more people have suffered with a mental illness at some stage in their life. No one is alone in this, nor should they feel that way.
The sheer number of people struggling with mental health problems is upsetting because these issues are exceptionally difficult to deal with, but I think we should try to look at this in a positive light. Mental illnesses are just a part of life – much like breaking a bone is. They are not something to be feared, they are not contagious; they are common and they are also treatable. Personally, I like to use a ‘toolbox’ analogy. The analogy goes like this: everyone is born as an empty toolbox and as they get older and have more experiences, they gain tools for their box. The lessons and strategies learnt whilst dealing with mental health issues are tools to put in the toolbox and they will stay with you forever. They, along with all your other experiences, become your tools to help you in life.
Although we have progressed hugely in breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, there is still a long way to go and it is part of the reason that people feel so alone when they are diagnosed with them. Mental health issues do not mean you are weak, in fact quite the opposite. They should not be something you feel ashamed of. You wouldn’t hide a broken leg, so why a mental illness? I believe it is imperative that we are more open about our experiences regarding mental health, because it is the only way we can help other people and continue to reduce the stigma surrounding these problems. It is time we stopped seeing them as a show of weakness and started accepting that they are a treatable part of life.
Mental illness can often feel like trying to find your way in complete darkness without any kind of light, but there are millions of us all stumbling along that same shadowy route. You are not the only one, and the lights are there: sometimes they just take a while to find.
(Image courtesy of: https://unspokenpolitics.net/category/justice-2/healthcare/mental-health-healthcare/)