11 May 2015

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK

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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and, as you may know, this is something I care a whole lot about, so I thought I would theme this weeks posts on the subject (with a few regular posts still featuring too!).

To kick us off I thought I would talk about something that I always struggle with, not fitting the 'right' mental health sufferer stereotype (grrr!).

Whether or not you have suffered with a mental health problem, chances are you know someone who has. The question is, if you are someone who has never suffered with one, how much do you know about it? (I don't mean that in a patronising way, it's just that it is something that is not really 'out there', you know?). How does coming across someone suffering with a mental health problem make you feel? Awkward? Unsure? Afraid? Frustrated? Upset? Angry? These are all comments I have heard mentioned when hearing people discuss a friend or family member who is ill.

People who don't know I have a mental health problem are always surprised if they find out I have one because, apparently, what I portray, and what they imagine everyone with an illness to look like, don't marry up! That is what makes me the most mad I think.

Should all of us who suffer go around looking utterly miserable and like we are going to melt down at any given moment? (Nothing wrong with that by the way, if you feel it, you have to go with it). And if we look happy and are smiling (gasp!) does that mean that we have mis-labeled a 'bit of a bad day' as a mental health problem?

Let me tell you something. The same way that some people with a cold stay at home wrapped in a duvet, crying into a Lemsip, and others struggle into work with a smile on their face and a skip in their step is the same scenario as people with mental health illnesses. Neither of the reactions by our friends with a cold are any less valid, it is just how, as an individual, you deal with the hand you have been given.

So, next time you see a colleague looking a little drained but with a beaming smile on their face, don't be worried about saying the wrong thing, or being a bit scared, maybe just say 'hey, you okay?'. It's not rocket science, I know, but just asking is sometimes enough to make someone feel cared about and may well make all the difference to their day.
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