Why We Suck at Talking About Mental Health
In many ways I love the changing social atmosphere around mental health, but there are some parts of the conversation fast becoming conventional wisdom, that make my blood boil.
One of these is the message that ends most articles, often mine included, that if you are struggling you just need to reach out. On the surface this seems so obviously true that it’s hard to argue with. And who would be so mean-spirited a person as to pick holes in such a positive message.
It turns out I would be so mean-spirited. For a start this argument can minimise the pressures a person is struggling so hard with. It implies they’re not trying hard enough, and shames them for not succeeding. But perhaps worst of all it denies an almost universally awful truth about depression.
When you are depressed you can feel totally, desperately alone.
If you’re depressed, often the hardest thing to do is start talking, which makes it even more heartbreaking that when a person does reach out they can be met with long waiting lists for under funded services.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the positive message of this mental health revolution. I can see it having a real impact on cultural attitudes that are problematic- stiff up lips and boys not crying- but we deserve the fuller picture.
Those feel good memes sanitise mental health issues, making them more palatable for facebook feeds. I want us to spit that back out, and share what it really feels like to struggle, to be alone.
To acknowledge that to overcome that to overcome an internal fight to save yourself you may have to overcome an external fight for support- a fight with services and maybe even those close to you.
That you may feel lonely and isolated because you are… but you do deserve to feel ok. That feeling okay is possible, but probably hard and exhausting.
Somehow you’ve survived this long, know that change is possible.
Not much of a meme though.