It’s World Mental Health Day, y’all.
Mental health is getting there. Like honestly, have you tried getting an NHS referral to see a psychiatrist? To be fair, this isn’t the NHS’ fault and stems from a wider funding and resources issue.
But until we have a mental health system that is reflective of society’s needs, it’s important to understand as much as is possible on mental health.
Some insight is provided below (with Tatiana Maslany gifs, because she’s awesome) about the illnesses of depression and anxiety.
Disclaimer before reading: This post does not attempt to speak on behalf of all those who suffer from depression and anxiety, as these illnesses affect individuals differently and that can be specific to certain relative triggers. This general insight is derived from my own personal observations and of course, will respectively differ from others.
1. When we deflect the situation with ‘I’ll be fine!’, maybe keep an eye on us. We can hide it really well.
From personal experience, I hid my depression really well. Anxiety, too. To the point where I found it surprising when someone said to me
“I had no idea at all! You didn’t look that way!” – oooh yeah, that masterful art of disguise.
It’s weird how quick we can put that mask on. It’s a protective mechanism. Concerns of ‘looking weak’ or ‘worrying others’ plays a part. But sometimes, it’s just easier to pretend it’s all okay when we’re struggling on the inside. It’s not healthy, I know. But what helps is if people check in. Of course, not everyone is a mind reader. Nor should they be as we need to know whether it is appropriate to ask if we’re okay. However, there is a way to not be pushy but not to be dismissive either. Keep an eye on us if you sense something is not right and spend time with us to see how we’re feeling.
“Hey, how are you feeling today?”
2. Be really patient and really kind. Please.
Be kind. Be kind again. And be even more kind. And patient. If you don’t understand mental health, just listen. The only way you can help us is if you create an environment that says “I’m here, tell me what I need to know. I’m going to anything I can to support you and listen.” Sometimes we’ll ramble, we may not make a lot of sense at first, we may make a lot of sense, but either way, hear us out.
Beyonce got it right. “LISTENNNNNNNNMNNNN TO THE SONG HERE IN MY HEA–.” Ahem.
3. Your healthiest self is the best self.
A colleague of mine told me that in life, people have a lot to offer. Their ability to connect with others, to make people laugh, their intelligence, their faith – she said we each have a purpose in our lives that we want to fulfil – whether we know it or not. She asked me ‘what do you want from your life?’ A mixture of ‘um’ and ‘ah’ responses but ultimately, I wanted to be at peace.
“What is important to you in your life? I’m guessing one of those things is your faith right, Islam? I’m not a religious person but I’m pretty sure any faith wants you to look after yourself and be kind to yourself and others. It has good values. In life, you want to help others, see the world, be a happy person right? You can do that and you are that person. But importantly, you need to take care of your health to do that and to help others. Your best self is the healthiest self. Don’t apologise for what you need to do in order to be happy and healthy.”
Don’t apologise for making choices that get you to where you need to be.
4. The symptoms can take over and it may take time to realise we’re depressed
The symptoms of depression are insidious. They start off slowly. But they filter in and can significantly impair our functioning if this is not managed over time. That dark place is horrible. It really is. It can feel like you’re a zombie and honestly, I thought my body was on autopilot. Your mind is not in a good place when this hits. What’s really really difficult about depression is that once it impacts you, you may not realise how badly it’s affecting you. You’re tired, mentally and physically. That’s why it’s important to have others in your life who can notice these changes. It’s really isolating and we’re not always in a position to help ourselves. So, if you sense something may not be right in yourself or others, act on this gut.
5. Depression and anxiety disorders are illnesses. You are allowed to take time out.
One more time for the people in the back! Depression and anxiety are mental illnesses. If these illnesses severely impact your day to day functioning for more than 12 months, I am told that these can be classified as disabilities. I still struggle to advocate my conditions in this respect, but if it disables you on a day to day level if not properly managed, you are valid in saying so. I’m sure you’ve heard that physical health is just as important as mental health. So you are allowed to take time out – whether from work, university or general life – to focus on your health. There have been many times where I’ve cancelled plans or had to put things on hold because my anxiety was just going through the roof. So my advice? Be kind to yourself and be kind to others if they need to take a time out to recuperate.
You are absolutely allowed to take time out for your mental health.