The Speaker
Wednesday, 29 May 2024 – 22:35

Mental health matters – a personal message

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

Nobody is invincible or immune from mental health problems – and I’m no exception.

I’m not usually too open about my feelings, or at least with the public. This article isn’t an attempt to garner sympathy, rather it is an attempt to help raise awareness of Mental Health and reflect on what is a difficult time for so many of us.

We’re just five months into 2020, and already it has been a strange, unprecedented and traumatic year for many. The Coronavirus pandemic has inflicted misery on millions and many of us will either directly or indirectly know someone who has had their own personal battle against the virus.

I and others have had achievements, some great experiences and moments to remember already this year, but whatever has happened and does happen from this point forward, it seems difficult to imagine that 2020 won’t go down as a bad year in the history books.

Many people will have faced setbacks this year, both related and unrelated to the Coronavirus. On a personal level, in January, I suffered a head injury, and it resulted in a pretty unhappy time over the weeks that followed. I continued to receive frequent ongoing symptoms from the injury and my recovery was gradual and frustrating. I still continue to receive some symptoms to this day.

The injury also triggered a set of mental health problems, which the lockdown measures and uncertainty in the following months didn’t exactly help. The problems have perhaps been mild, though challenging at times and difficult to go through. They say the best way to start to respond to mental health struggles is to talk to someone and seek support – and that’s what I’ve been doing over the last months.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, I think it is more important than ever that we recognise the importance of speaking out and sharing our feelings with others. While the Coronavirus lockdown has meant we can’t be together, we can still talk to one another. Nobody should feel like they have nowhere to turn. Whether it’s speaking to friends or family, or talking to professionals, there is always somebody who can listen.

Mental health problems shouldn’t be seen as a weakness, but rather a natural phase that many of us will face – research has suggested that nearly half of all adults will experience some form of mental health struggles in their lifetime.

It really can be hard to speak your feelings sometimes due to the stigma attached to mental health. I’ve been through the process of not always knowing how people may react, and it can sometimes seem unfair to ask someone else to listen to how you’re feeling. Making the first step in something is often the hardest thing, and this can be one of those examples.

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is looking at acts of kindness. This week’s campaign has been promoting us making acts of kindness, though recognising them is also important. Personally, I cannot thank enough those who have been there for me when I’ve needed someone to turn to. From my mate listening to me talking on the phone until the early hours of the morning, to my friends and colleagues, family and professionals who have looked out for me, these are just some examples of many acts of kindness. The acts that some people make may be small, but they can have a massive impact and can often be appreciated so much more than they may be believed.

Throughout the last few months, we’ve seen an immeasurable amount of acts of kindness, both related and unrelated to mental health. During times where much of the news can be bleak, it can be encouraging to discover the stories of communities coming together in spirit and looking out for one another. It’s refreshing to open my inbox in the morning here at The Speaker to see the increasing number of messages about people doing good and supporting others.

If I could encourage one thing to those facing challenges, it is to talk. It can be easy to lock up all our feelings inside – but it can also be dangerous. Talking through our challenges really can help us move forward. No matter what you’re facing, somebody out there is ready to listen.

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