Last night I had a million conversations with a million different people about the current mental health crisis we’ve all come to know too well. It’s become clear that people want to help advocate positive change now more than ever, myself included. The difficulty for me is knowing where to start. I would give every second of my time, every penny of my money, and every molecule of my energy to the cause, if I only knew where to start.
When we talk about mental health, the message being communicated is always to talk, to confide in friends and families, to see a healthcare professional – basically to reach out in any way you can. With suicide rates on the rise, this message is ever-growing in importance, and it’s a message we should all not only listen to but also believe and trust whole-heartedly.
However, it’s not enough.
Mental health is so overwhelmingly complex, yet it is often all dumped into the “depression” category. Depression is a mental health disorder in itself, as well as being a symptom of many more diseases of the mind. This needs to be communicated as part of the attempt to address the crisis. Someone suffering from, say, bipolar disorder, needs to be treated entirely differently to someone with schizophrenia. A victim of psychosis can’t depend on a treatment plan for that of someone with post traumatic stress disorder. Talking is paramount to all of the above, but when there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that turns a mental illness into a physical one, it is not enough.
There are so many holes in the system that are adding to the crisis, so much so that we are watching the whole thing collapse before our eyes, with our most vulnerable friends and family falling through the cracks in the form of suicide and self harm. Stigma and fear of speaking out is just one of the many holes, amongst social media pressures, lack of research, poor education, and unfair resource allocation. The social media issue is one that I have no clue how to address as I believe it can be an extremely powerful tool when it’s used right as well as a fatally dangerous one if not, both a blessing and a curse. But I do believe that if resource allocation allowed for thorough research to be carried out by the best of the best, and for that research to be poured into every level of education as a top priority, well that would be a good place to start. Not a simple nor quick fix, but a step in the right direction.
Lastly, going back to the millions of conversations I’ve had with people last night, I think that that in itself shows a mutual understanding that we can all share, a special bond that continues to grow stronger in the face of tragedy, a genuine willingness to help one another, and a deep love for each other that we cannot deny. This, in itself, shows that we are not alone, and this knowledge along with addressing the holes in the system mentioned above, will make for leaps and bounds in improving the crisis.
After a year of loss and grief, of broken hearts and painful guilt, of empty waterproof mascara bottles and multipacks of kleenex, of annual bereavement days in work exhausted, of hope lost and tear stained pillows – enough is enough. We need to get our heads together as well as our hearts. I am willing to give every second of my time, every penny of my money, and every molecule of my energy to the cause.
Here’s to fighting this relentless battle together as one.