Those of us of a certain vintage will remember from the 1980’s Bob Hoskins ad for British Telecom and the slogan ‘it’s good to talk’. This is such a true statement when we come to the issue of mental health. The recent death of movie legend Robin Williams has once again brought the spotlight upon mental health. To the outside world I suppose, he appeared to have it all. Wealth, a fabulous home and a great family who loved him more than anything else in the world. Yet despite all this, he still took his own life. This sort of scenario is played out thousands of times around the world every single year. Suicide is a major form of preventable death and needs much more work to tackle.
It highlights one of the most inherent problems faced by those who suffer from poor mental health. That is, often, there are no outward signs of illness or despair. It is not like walking into the accident and emergency department of your local hospital with a broken leg or a cut head. If only it were!
We British are taught from a very early age that the stiff upper lip must prevail. We seem to scorn at the Americans and their apparent need for them to go running off to see the latest ‘Therapist’. I suspect the best position would be somewhere in between the two. What is vital though, is that there must be dialogue. Suffering in silence is not an option any longer. Silence really can be a matter of life and death. In this area.
Many sufferers of poor mental health tell us that they do not talk about their problems for fear of sounding silly or that their problems may be considered trivial to a listener. In reality, the ‘silly’ question is the one that you don’t ask! The days when the GP just reached for his prescribing pad without really listening to you are thankfully becoming rarer by the day. We do not deny it may still go on, my contention is that it is getting better. Not perfect, but better.
The highly funded ‘Time to Change’ campaign has attempted to address the subject and to indeed get us to talk about mental health, urging us to address the ‘elephant in the room’. All good sentiments and I applaud their efforts. But (you knew there was one coming..), despite this, how many members of the public have actually heard of it? Many of you will have because you have a clear interest in mental health, hence reading this article. My point is, I wonder if you went outside your front door and grabbed the first 20 people who passed and asked them if they had heard about it. I wonder. I would be interested in hearing the results my friends.
So in summary, talk about mental health wherever you can. Put it on the agenda at work. Be honest and open if you are not feeling too well one day. If more of us did this, we could effect change. Nobody is saying that it will be easy, but doing noting and remaining silent, is no longer going to be an option on the table for you.
Together, we must speak out for ourselves and just as importantly, for those who suffer but have yet to find the confidence to find their own lungs. We will give them a voice.