By Alex Cole
When the words ‘mental health’ are the topic of discussion, negative connotations seem to be the immediate response. Words such as sad, unstable, difficult and dramatic are frequently thought of. Recently I attended a session by Mental Health First Aid England to receive my MHFA qualification. During one activity, the group had to discuss good and bad words associated with mental health. Unsurprisingly, it was easier to choose negative responses. When people talk about the subject, it’s instantly spoken about in the perspective of poor health.
However, what many don’t understand is that we all have a mental health. Whether happy or sad, it is all relates back to our minds and it is just as important as our physical health. Individuals and the media focus so much on perfecting the body, but disregard taking care of ones mental state, even though one is not without the other. It seems that for decades, social constructions have provided the idea that the only evidence of mental health is a poor mental health. No matter age or gender, disregarding ones mentality and the problems surrounding it, creates nothing but damage. From education on the matter to toxic masculinity, these issues can easily be addressed. But still, negative connotations remain powerful in numerous cultures. Therefore, it's time for everyone to come together and realise it's okay to talk about mental health.
As someone who has dealt with general anxiety disorder and depression, I thought it was time to join the mental health revolution. More and more people are supporting the subject and advocating for better treatment within society. As a child, the only representation of mental health I had ever seen was of those whose life was utterly controlled by it. There was no information of the vast spectrum surrounding mental health. If it wasn’t severe or physically compromising, it didn’t seem to exist. If I experienced a panic attack, it was just ‘over dramatising’ and ‘ridiculous’. As you can imagine, this view stops people from addressing their issues and looking for help. Unfortunately this also prevents people from recognising others symptoms of mental health related illnesses. This meant the help I required wasn’t received until I was in university and at this point, it had been years of denial and heightened issues. However after discussing these problems with a GP, the options that could help my mental health were provided. Although I still have days where depression decides to surprise me or I have a panic attack in a supermarket, my mental state has improved since I decided to talk to a specialist.
Now at 24 years old, I wanted to do something to make sure that those out there who felt similar experiences or want to advocate for those who do, are aware of the signs and symptoms. So that people can learn from others stories and realise that their emotions are justified. Whether through art, music or advice, I hope that those struggling will know that there are people who feel just the same and that it's okay to ask for help.