End The Stigma
October 10th is World Mental Health Day.
Really, every day should be Mental Health Day.
A lot of progress has been made in recent years, it's true. Mental health matters are discussed much more frequently and openly than they were. Unfortunately, however, there is still a huge amount of stigma associated with mental health. This is disproportionately true for some ethnic minorities, for whom talking about mental health is still taboo. I know this because I belong to one.
There has also been a pernicious backlash against people who have been brave enough to talk about their mental health openly. Meghan Markle and Simone Biles come immediately to mind. Emma Raducanu, too. Although the latter's stunning subsequent US Open victory has gone a long way towards making people understand why it's so important to look after yourself and say no to things (however big and important they may seem) when you need to.
Men, in particular, still find it difficult to talk about their mental health. Many suffer in silence. Again, I know this from personal experience. Tragically many also decide to end that suffering themselves.
In terms of age, gender and socio-economic status, the group most at risk of suicide are middle-aged men from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The only way to change this is to keep pushing the boundaries, to keep talking, to keep sharing. It's easy to say, but difficult to do. Especially when we see people do it and then get shot down by a cruel media culture in which destroying people seems more important than helping them.
Quite often, poor mental health is a vicious cycle, much like poverty. People with poor access to suitable education and healthcare are unable to escape this cycle, and so it continues. The stresses on people are only getting worse. Greater insecurity and increased financial pressure are not a great recipe for good mental health.
But we are not powerless. We can help ourselves and we can help each other. In fact, we need to help ourselves and we need to help each other. Whether it's a smile, an ear or a mug of tea, every small act of kindness, understanding and empathy can help so much.
No one can end the stigma by themselves, we need to do it together.
I get by with a little help from my friends.
- The Beatles
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