You know someone who has or has had mental health issues. Guaranteed.
It could be a work colleague, a friend or a family member.
You may not have realised it. In some cases they might not realise it. But you will have a close relationship with someone with a history of mental health issues.
With 14 million adults a year experiencing some form of mental health condition it is hardly news and not uncommon so why do we keep it a secret?
If you yourself have or have had mental health issues ask yourself how many people you told.
Chances are it wasn’t many and chances are it didn’t extend beyond immediately family and your closest friends.
So why do we feel we need to keep our mental health issues a secret?
It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. Whilst attitudes towards mental health issues have come an incredibly long way, there are still some pretty big knowledge gaps out there.
Without education, people’s perception of mental health issues are limited to what they read in the media or see on television. This can make for a much distorted view.
We’ve explored the portrayal of individuals with disabilities in the media in the past and those with mental health issues don’t fare much better.
With perception come unhelpful labels. Just as ‘depressed’ is used far too casually, so too is the term ‘mental’. It has some very negative connotations attached to it and that, in turn, marginalises and isolates those with mental health issues.
The fear of being branded as erratic, violent, unreasonable or in some way damaged is too great a risk to take.
Keeping secrets and suffering in silence can sometimes seem like the easier choice.
Or is it?
We don’t suggest you get everyone together and make a sweeping declaration of mental health issues. Of course you can if you want but we recommend gradually discussing the challenges you face (and have already overcome) with those closest to you.
This gives them the opportunity to ask questions and for you to tell them how best they can support you.
One thing that often surprises those with mental health issues when they do open up is just how loving and supporting others can be. Whether it’s a family member, a friend or even your employer, the majority of people will be understanding and supportive.
The challenge for the individual is overcoming the fear of opening up and challenging the thoughts that they will be rejected by those they tell.
Unfortunately there will be some people who do react poorly but this is true of everything in life and it is far better to know who will support you and who won’t, rather than remaining silent and just assuming you’re entirely on your own.
Besides, keeping secrets is exhausting.
By opening up you have the opportunity to educate those who don’t understand which is a positive step and gives you greater influence over your life.
You’ll find that ‘living out loud’ with your mental health issues is very freeing. You no longer have to make up excuses or sneak off because a situation is proving a challenge.
It also gives you the power to say when you’re not happy about something and give a valid reason why.
You will likely find that relationships actually improve as friends and family will appreciate the level of trust you have shown in them and feel closer to you for it.
Because you’re able to talk about the challenges you are experiencing you will be in a stronger position to ask for the support you need from your friends and family.
This is really important but isn’t about transferring ownership of your challenges on to your family so they do all the heavy lifting. You are in charge of your own outcomes.
You should find they’ll be more understanding and more likely to offer help. Of course on the flipside you may find that some people distance themselves for whatever reason. Whilst sad don’t let it stop you from taking positive steps as it is far better have a few incredible friends than lots of poor ones.
Finally, there are services like ours to offer you and your support circle advice and – if needed – service provision to help you work through this difficult period.
So if you have mental health issues don’t hide, dare to be bold and you’ll be amazed by the response.
For further advice or guidance on service provision, get in touch with us today.