I hope you are well.
9 – 15 May is mental health awareness week in the UK. Throughout this week there will be lots of events going on virtually and in person across the country. I’ll be writing and also speaking about mental health a fair bit too.
For this post, I just wanted to take things right back to the basics.
There is a lot of stigma around mental ill health, yet we all have mental health. If you feel physically unwell, noticed a strange bump or were worried about a physical change – you’d head to the doctor or get other medical advice. Yet when it comes to our mental health, many people do not seek assistance. This can be for a variety of reasons including a sense of shame, embarrassment, and secrecy. Our mental health is just that, part of our health.
I first encountered mental ill health when I was 17. I was struggling with confidence and self-worth, and all of the additional dramas hitting a 17-year-old who had realised they were gay. I felt lost and quite hopeless – not able to connect with anyone and I was not sure what I was feeling. The school I went to was a Rotherham high school, and there was no support for students who were suffering with their mental health, or their sexuality. Back then the stigmas attached to both more significant than the present day.
Through months of struggling, my depression worsened and finally led to an incident of self harm. It was only when there was a physical manifestation did anyone notice something was not right. One school teacher intervened, and I will forever be grateful for her support. She helped me so much academically with additional support and a safe place to talk. This helped me open up to my Mum about what was going on, and we were able to get me medical support via a GP. This made all the difference, and put me back onto the road to recovery.
Sadly, kids can be very cruel. For the stigma of mental ill health, there are lots of names you can be called. I feel like I was probably called every name you can think of, and that can hit hard. I was only just on the journey to recovery when the name calling began.
I learned people can be cruel and its taken many years to see, their opinion of me doesn’t matter, it never did.
This mental health awareness week is focused on loneliness. Through these years I felt very isolated. Loneliness is a feeling you can have, even if physically surrounded by others. But I also know, being physically alone can also be better than being surrounded by toxic people.
We all have mental health. I share a part of my story with you today to raise awareness. The stigma remains, I even got called a name in the workplace recently.
If someone reaches out to you and asks for a chat. Be human, accept and listen. You may not have the answers – but just listening could actually change the world for the person seeking help.
Look after each other.
For now Crazy James (thank you so much to the person who called me this name at work) is signing off.