There has been a lot of talk about mental illness and the resources available over the past couple of days. The reason for this subject being at the forefront of people’s minds is devastating, just as it is devastating when anyone loses their battle with an illness.
But I think it’s important, now that we are all thinking and talking about mental health that we open up as many important conversations as we can.
For people who are lucky enough not to have experienced a mental illness, now is the time to ask questions, to listen and to read, read, read and learn as much as possible about the complexities of having and treating mental illness.
There are a couple of reasons to be educated on the subject. One, even though you have not been directly affected, someone in your life has been, or will be. As the friend, partner or family member of someone fighting a mental illness, educating yourself about the issues will allow you to be the best support possible to them.
The second reason to educate yourself right now, is that maybe one day you will be directly affected, and in my limited experience the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to recognise what’s happening and grab hold of the weapons you need to start fighting sooner.
I have had a few major depressive episodes throughout my life, but since supporting my husband through a breakdown a couple of years ago I understood not just how to get help, but how important that help is.
That knowledge meant that when I started to really struggle and feel like I was going off the rails, I forced myself to reach out and get help instead of trying to battle on my own as I had done in the past.
For people who have been directly affected by mental illness, this is a great time for talking. Talk as much as you feel comfortable about your experiences, your care, your needs. Talk to friends, write it down, share your story as much or as little as you like, and know that you are helping to keep the conversation going.
One of the awful things about mental illness is how it isolates. It will tell you that you are alone, that no one cares, or should care. It will make you feel unworthy of every good thing in your life and tell you that you bring nothing to the world.
None of that is true, the outpouring of grief at Robin Williams’ death is proof of that, but it feels true when you’re there.
Let’s fight those lies with truths – true stories, open conversations, education and removing the stigma of mental illness.
Let’s shine a light on the darkness and hopefully help someone else in the fight of their life.