The call to arms for 2020’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Invest in mental health’. Trust me, as somebody who lives with depression and anxiety I’ve bloody invested in it. Firstly, my time…. living with depression and anxiety is quite time consuming and secondly, financially… years of therapy with a qualified clinical psychologist doesn’t come cheap.
But I absolutely recognise my privilege here. I have an incredibly supportive partner and daughters, I have the means to visit my psych, I live in a country which has made considerable inroads into providing affordable and accessible mental health services over the last twenty years, and people are getting better at talking about it. I mean that last bit is the hardest bit to change. And that’s where I think we can all invest some energy.
We also need to stop thinking about mental health as some weird arse abstract thing. We’re basically talking about the brain. And if bits of the brain are broken, either temporarily or permanently, we need to be as considerate and caring as we are when we’re talking about broken limbs or cancer or whatever other physical ailment you’re perfectly okay talking about.
I like to joke that my brain has tried to kill me twice – firstly via suicidal ideation in 2017 and then a brain bleed (stroke) in 2019. Sucks to be my brain though because I won both times. It also means that 2020 for me hasn’t been as scary as it has for some as 2019 was about as crappy as it could get in my view.
Basically for those that have never experienced depression or anxiety – 2020 is a bit like living through an episode. Academically there is a lot you know for a fact, you feel incredibly isolated no matter what, the brain doesn’t necessarily act in a rational manner and everybody is an expert on what you can do to get over it. The fact is though – every single person has a unique experience of 2020 which is exactly the same as most mental health conditions…. you can lump them in generally, but the individual experiences are in no way alike.
So yes, let’s invest in mental health. Let’s invest in getting comfortable with having feelings. Let’s invest in walking away from relationships which aren’t good for us. Let’s invest in taking responsibility for the people around us. Let’s invest in voting in governments that support the most vulnerable in the community. Let’s invest in policies that don’t result in the incarceration of already traumatised people. Let’s invest in adapting our colloquialisms and vernacular to eliminate hurtful and harmful generalisations. Let’s invest in understanding how our words and actions impact on others.
Let’s invest in kindness. To others yes.
But first of all to ourselves.
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