Why we shouldn’t feel afraid to talk about mental health

Mental health is a topic I’m extremely passionate about.

Several members of my close family (me included) have had or are currently suffering from a form of mental illness.

I myself suffered from two bouts of mental illness in the past which thankfully are a long way behind me now and put to rest. 

Which is a great thread to start on actually.

Just because we've suffered from a mental illness doesn’t mean we'll be subject to that for the rest of our life.

Far from it in fact. 

As the body can make a full recovery from an illness, so can the mind. 

I’m not scared in the slightest to talk about my experiences with mental illness because I know that far more people suffer than we realise. 

There are more tears, hurt and fear behind closed doors than we could possibly imagine. 

And yet, I have a strong belief that the more the topic is talked about, in normal conversation, the less taboo it becomes.

And therefore, I hope people will feel able to get help and support. 

I found when I suffered that the vast field of mental health was a lonely and isolating place.

I felt so alone like I was the only one suffering and that no one would understand me.

This, of course, meant I kept quiet at the time (the absolute worst thing to do)

I took a rather naive approach when I was ill as a teenager, thinking I could figure it out myself.

Telling myself it would go away. Telling myself to stop being silly. 

And it did ‘go away’ after getting help (eventually).

But I often look back and wonder how many years I lost as a teenager?

Reading food packets, weighing myself, looking in the mirror in despair.

Wanting so desperately to squeeze into size 6 New Look jeans.

There are so many different aspects of mental health, from the medical side (diagnosis and treatment) to the array of mental and emotional health topics.

And then to the flip side which is where I’m at now.

Being proactive in taking care of my mental health.

Realising and truly embodying the fact that mental health is of the utmost importance to living life well

In fact, I’m so passionate about positive mental health that I included a whole week's worth of content on the topic in my Busting Anxiety In Motherhood programme.  

I’ve wanted to write about the topic of mental health for a long time I confess.

But a little voice in my head always shouts

“You’re not qualified to talk about this subject!”

So again, I’ve kept quiet. 

But as I sit here on my couch, heavily pregnant with our second baby, I realise how flipping important this topic is.

I want the loves of my life, my boys, to be aware of how important it is to look after their mental and emotional health. 

I want them to know that it’s empowering and something to be proud of when we talk about mental health and actively take charge of looking after it.

I never expected motherhood to bring out this very vocal side of me.

But they do say, find your passion, find your voice. 

Seems that my passion is living life well

And that has absolutely nothing to do with money or travelling, or experiences even. 

In my opinion, it has to do with how you see yourself and the circumstances around you. 

I had no idea that I’d train as a wellness coach during my maternity leave.

And now find myself in the midst of studying multiple techniques which are proven to help overcome mental illness (with my huge adorable baby belly in front of me)

This is all because I feel so passionate about breaking the stigma of mental health so that those who suffer can feel comfortable to get the help they need. 

Just looking at statistics, we have to open our eyes to how prevalent mental illness really is.

And this is especially heightened due to the current pandemic. 

“1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England”

“1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem like anxiety or depression in any given week in England”  

“Over the course of someone’s lifetime, 1 in 5 people have suicidal thoughts”

(Mind.org.uk)

I could go on. The statistics are clear that mental health is huge.

And yet here I am, the ever hopeful and optimistic amongst us, looking to provide help if I can. 

I’m not an expert on the topic of mental health by any stretch.

But I am someone who’s experienced my own form of mental health issues.

And equally, right now, I’m proactive in promoting the benefits of talking about positive mental health.

In actively looking after our minds like we’re told to look after our bodies. 

Expressing our feelings, not bottling up our emotions.

Finding support and empathy in being listened to and understood.

And if I can offer anything in this post here, it’s what I do personally to look after my mental health.

Which in turn means I get to fully live and love my life. 

So here’s my mental care package for myself (feel free to use these ideas for your own benefit)

  • Take time out. Whether it’s away from work, away from social media, away from the news, whatever it’s away from, do it. 

Our minds can’t cope with the incessant noise they’re exposed to. 

Take some time, a day, two days, a week or even longer, however long you need.

Take everything off your to-do list and just spend some time gathering your thoughts and finding some peace at that moment.

Side note: Having children is not an excuse to not do this.

It’s easy to turn off our phones/the TV and avoid exposure to unnecessary stress and anxiety. 

  • Practise mindfulness. It’s my go-to when my mind is too busy.

Rather than teach you mindfulness here, I recommend buying a mindfulness book or taking an 8-week MCBT course. It’s a real holiday for the mind. 

  • Talk about it. I don’t buy into the notion that there’s not enough help out there for people who’re struggling with their mental health.

There is more help now then there’s ever been before.

Yes, I agree that the waiting lists can be long and the phone lines busy, but please, please, keep trying.

Don’t give up at the first hurdle.

There is always someone to talk to. The NHS helplines are good as a first step. 

  • Get interested. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health illness (or you feel you’re suffering) try to help yourself by getting educated on it.

Whether it’s depression, eating disorders, anxiety, PTSD, whatever it is you can bet there are gazillions of publications, books, self-help courses and blogs to help you overcome it. 

  • Be proactive, not reactive. I’m not the first person to say this but it’s so true.

Look after yourself! Eat better! Exercise in the fresh air. Spend time away from screens.

Really have deep and meaningful conversations with those you love.

Read happy books. Treat yourself to a warm bath or an enjoyable hobby!

I hope this blog helps you if you're reading it.

Remember to look after your mind in the same way you look after your body.

Sophie x

(Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash)

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