Be Kind. Ask the Question. Talk

By Amy Smith

Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 of us, and yet people are still afraid to talk about it. While more and more work is being done to challenge the stigma around mental health, it’s kindness that will encourage someone who feels like they need support to speak out without fear.

This week is Mental Health Awareness week, and the theme is kindness. It’s a movement I feel extremely passionate about because I am one of those 1 in 4. Some of you reading this probably are too. I have suffered from mental health issues since I was a young teenager. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts have all played a part in my life at one time or another. But I am not ashamed to say it.

The brain is arguably the most complex organ in the body, and yet when it breaks we are often made to feel a sense of shame. I’m no psychologist and I certainly don’t have all the answers as to why there is still a stigma, but I do have one simple rule for me. If I wouldn’t feel ashamed if I broke my leg, then I’m certainly not going to feel ashamed if my brain needs some help. It’s a part of my body like any other, and it can go wrong just as easily.

That doesn’t mean I announce my mental health issues over the supermarket tannoy, naturally. But it does mean I feel comfortable enough to talk about them to the people around me who I trust – family, friends, colleagues. The people who unknowingly show me an act of kindness when they ask the question, “are you ok?”

And that’s what I’d like to encourage anyone reading this to do.

Even if you don’t suffer from mental health issues, do one kind thing and tell the people you care about that they can trust you if they need to talk. And remember, if you’re not sure, ask twice. Are you ok? Are you really ok? You don’t have to fix it, just being there and listening will help.

And if you are one of those 1 in 4 and feel like you need some support, remember what Bob Hoskins once said. “It’s good to talk.’ Granted he was talking about a telecommunications company back in the 90s at the time, but he nevertheless did have a point. Talking helps. It’s about realising that you’re not alone and trust me, you’re not alone! There are so many times I’ve opened-up to people and learnt that they too have suffered similar experiences or have their own struggles. Even those without similar experiences have been ready to listen when I’ve needed them to.

So, if you need to talk to someone, it’s time to tell them. I know it can be scary and that is why trust is so important. It doesn’t have to be family or friends. You can talk in confidence to your GP, The Samaritans or the many mental health support services that are available in your local area.

The fight to eradicate the mental health stigma will continue until it’s won. More and more people are starting to realise that there is no shame in having mental health issues, and that the kinder we are, the more we’ll talk and the more we can support each other. We’d want our loved ones to talk to us if something was affecting them, so let’s lead the way and show them that talking about our mental health is no different to talking about a broken leg.

It’s time to stop reading now. It’s time to be kind, ask the question, and talk.