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World Mental Health Day

We've reached that time of year again where we see a plethora of memes and posts all over social media to remind us to take care of our mental health, aiming to reduce the stigma of mental illness and encourage us to talk to people about our problems. I often wonder how effective it is in real terms at actually getting people to open up. It feels often that we see a lot of 'success stories', people in the public eye explaining how they got better, how you can too if you just talk to someone.

This isn't a bad thing. It can give us hope. Talking to someone is very often all you need to lift you out of a low mood or a rough day. I'm a therapist - I'm never going to tell you that's a bad idea. But if you're in the midst of a really dark and difficult patch it can also make you wonder why you can't just get better too. Often these people have access to resources that aren't at everyone's disposal. Therapy, retreats, rehab and time off work to get well are a privilege. Having a well stocked fridge and a healthy income that can sustain them are a privilege. They don't show us the parts where they just can't get out of bed, or feel like they're having one panic attack after the other and just can't get it together. They don't show the part where we don't get paid sick days so just have to struggle on regardless, or have to go through the indignity of telling a stranger all the ways in which we struggle in order to be judged worthy or not of a benefit claim. In other words, 'World Mental Health Day' representatives can present a rather sanitised view of what is often a grim and miserable time full of tears, hopelessness, and questioning whether you'll ever get your sanity back.

Many of us don't want to to 'burden' our friends or family with our issues, not wanting to drag others down into the pit with us. We worry that they might think we're mad or too unstable to be near, as if our mental unrest was contagious. GP's and mental health services are overstretched and it may feel like forever before help comes, and the NHS are working incredibly hard, doing a wonderful job in lots of cases, but when you're on a waiting list and are told 'it's ok, just do this online seminar' or the one size fits all 'gold standard' CBT just doesn't... fit... it can make a long road feel never ending.

All that said, I want you to know that you CAN and WILL get better. It's really annoying but you know all the things you know you should do to take care of yourself? They actually will help.

  • DO - talk to someone. Choose someone you trust and be really honest. Getting it out will help and sometimes just vocalising our worries can help us separate the woods from the trees. Remember that you would do the same for them and not judge them for it.

  • DO - try to do simple self-care. Drink some water, make a simple meal, move your body. Even a short walk round the block is good, go with a friend if you feel able.

  • DO - try to find small things that give you joy in your day; the first sip of coffee, the achievement of making your bed or gathering the energy to shower, getting outside into some green space or looking after a pot plant if you don't have access, dancing round the kitchen to a happy song... find your joy.

  • DO - use other services than just the NHS. Mind, The Samaritans and Shout are a good start. I'll put the details below. You are not alone.

  • DO - access private therapy if you have the resources for it. It will give you more choice of the type of therapy and the therapist you want, and quicker access.

  • DON'T - give up on the idea of therapy if you can't afford it. Check with local charities such as Mind, who often offer low cost or even free sessions.

  • DON'T - be afraid to go to your GP. They see this every single day and can be a source of support or referral. Take someone trusted with you if you need to.

  • DON'T - suffer alone. Millions of people struggle with mental wellbeing and you are NORMAL. You're reacting to whatever is happening in your life and while your circumstances are unique to you, your feelings are relatable to so many others of us.

So whatever you're feeling, however bad it gets, seek support sooner rather than later. Next time World Mental Health Day comes around, you can be a success story too, including all the messy, hard bits that make up your beautiful, complex, human self.

Mind -

The Samaritans -

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