October 10 is World Mental Health Awareness Day and the theme this year is ‘Dignity in mental health – psychological and mental health first aid for all’. As we celebrate Mental health awareness day today, remember, nobody is immuned to mental illness. Nobody chooses to be mentally ill. Mental illness can affect anyone at any age or stage in life. The fact that mental illnesses are mostly not visible does not mean they are less serious than physical health issues.
Sadly, people who are diagnosed with mental illness are not often given the adequate treatment needed. Cuts in healthcare services are not helping matters as many are left without the necessary services they need to cope with mental illness. Also, many cases of mental illnesses remain undiagnosed because of lack of access to health care, stigmatisation and sometimes, outright denial due to shame and embarrassment.
It is sad that while we can easily access First Aid for physical health issues, same cannot be said for mental health crises. Many of us know how to provide First Aid to someone having a heart attack or who has suffered a physical injury, but not many of us have a clue what First Aid to render to someone suffering a mental health breakdown. Workplaces make sure to provide First Aid training for physical health issues, however, mental health crises are hardly provided for. It is high time we stopped this unnecessary discrimination. People can have mental health break down at workplaces, in the office, on the street, in a restaurant, virtually anywhere. We should endeavour to train more people in mental health first aid to provide first aid in such situations.
We could all do with improving our first aid skills especially as it relates to giving first aid in mental health related crises. We can all benefit from learning about giving first aid to people with Mental health issues. Here is a Mental Health First Aid booklet provided by World Federation For Mental health .
As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness day, it is important that we do our bit to stop stigmatising people living with mental illness. Kindly endeavour not to use ableist language which contributes to the stigmatisation of people living with mental health issues.
When you scream “Are you mad” or “You must be crazy” at someone you are angry with as an insult, you are inadvertently contributing to the continued stigmatisation of people living with mental health issues.
Nobody chooses to be ‘Mad’ or ‘Crazy’. These are acknowledged mental health conditions. Let us endeavour to stop using health conditions as insults. Calling someone ‘Mad’, ‘Crazy’ or ‘nuts’ as insults only further demeans and stigmatise people with mental illness. The fact that we have been using these words as insults for ages is not an excuse to continue using these ableist words. There are other ways we can express our anger or disgust at someone without resorting to degrading people with mental illness.
Clinical depression is a form of mental illness and depression is fast becoming a global crisis. The state of the world is enough to drive many of us into depression. These days, the news are all about man-made tragedies or natural disasters. Preventable deaths, suicides, wars, bombings, migrants drowning in the seas, high rise of unemployment, homelessness etc, are issues that are sending many of us into a state of clinical depression. Even a compulsory visit to the Jobcentre and having to put up with the constant degradation that many on welfare benefits are subjected to by Jobcentre staff and members of the public, are leaving many unemployed and underemployed people very depressed. We don’t know what people are dealing with, endeavour to be nice, even to strangers.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, but remember, there is nothing to be ashamed of. If you feel you are suffering from mental health issues, please get medical help where accessible. Mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Mental illness should not lead to loss of dignity.
Let us treat people with respect and dignity. Do not contribute to the dehumanisation of anyone. People living with mental health issues are not less human; they deserve to be treated with respect and human dignity. Let us all be a vehicle for positive change in our society. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.
Finally, remember, self-care is also important, especially for activists. It is OK to take a break. It is not selfish to take time out to take care of our mental and physical health. We can only give out what we have. Together, with the necessary care and tools, we can make the world a better place for all.