Why does mental health matter?
This simple question contains so many variant answers. It’s entirely subjective to the person answering it and the path of life that they have walked.
One thing I am certain of is that mental health is just as important as physical health.
What is mental health?
Mental health, to me, is something that we all have. It is entirely different from mental illness. Not everyone will have a mental illness but everyone will have mental health.
Our mental health is how we feel, our thoughts, and generally how we respond to life. It affects our actions, choices and the way that we navigate through life.
How good, or bad, our mental health is, depends on a number of things. Some people suggest it is partly down to genetics, some say it’s down to the lives we have lived. To many, it’s a matter of nature or nurture, maybe it’s even both.
Why should anyone become an advocate?
It can be super scary to put your thoughts and opinions out there on the internet. We have no idea who is reading our words and judging our minds.
There is certainly the worry that a future potential employer or partner could see these words and not give us the chance to be judged fairly.
The thing is, there will be no such thing as ‘fair’ until we make it apparent that there is a level of ‘unfairness’ in the world.
When it comes to mental health, a lot of people still believe in the stigma, or choose not to believe in mental health at all.
It may be that they have not experienced mental illness, maybe they had a bad experience with a loved one, or possibly, they may be in denial of their own wellbeing.
As to why I became a little advocate, let me tell you a little story..
I grew up, for a while, in a good place. I was popular in school, I was friends with every child who lived down my street and I never felt alone within my family.
I was full of imagination, life and a future that was filled with possibilities.
My father found a new job and both my parents were excited, but it meant that I had to move three hours away. I had to leave my life behind and I couldn’t fight that, I was a child.
Over the next few years, I found my school life to be the epitome of a living hell. I was bullied every day and would hide in the toilets or library.
I struggled to make real friends, as the ones I did have, did tend to make me feel uncomfortable, they would share my secrets and tease me. I think it was light-hearted but I felt isolated in my trust.
My family life changed too, I wasn’t as close to them as I used to be. I was growing and hitting puberty. We all became different people and I suppose communication became a rather tense thing.
Because of all of this, added to many traumatic events, I became suicidal. I abused my body, while my mind abused me. I was in the worst place in the world, without even leaving my room. Most of all, I was entirely alone.
Today, I raise awareness of mental health and advocate because I want to be the person that I needed back then. I want to be the friend, and the family, that I deserved.
I want to give a voice to the same girl who could not find hers. The voice that could have saved her.
How do you become an advocate?
People ask me all the time as to how they can raise awareness of mental health, or how they can become an advocate.
And I say the same thing every time.
All you need to do is talk about mental health, be it with yourself, your friends or family, or with your community and a larger audience.
Being an advocate isn’t about starting rallies and fighting battles. It’s about using your voice to let your thoughts and feelings be known. It’s offering a hand to the people who are drowning, and a voice to those who cannot find theirs.
It’s being a friend.