There is a lot of stigma towards mental health.
For a lot of us who are engaged with mental health services, this is one of the most obvious statements in the world. For many of us, every day is a reminder of this very fact. We struggle to reach out because we are worried that someone will shut us down, treat our serious issues as something frivolous.
Some days we do it to ourselves. We push ourselves to an unhealthy level because we believe that it’s all in our heads, and that with the right amount of gumption and perseverance we can overcome it. Anything less than success is failure.
Mental health, like any health issue, takes time and effort to manage; but shame can make that hard to accept because there’s no physical injury we can point at and go, “this is what’s slowing me down.”
On top of this, the way to recuperation is a lot more complicated indirect then a broken arm or a twisted ankle.
We need to think about that term, “all in your head” because, like broken arms and twisted ankles, heads and minds are just as important, if not more so then those limbs. We all need a brain after all.
This shame and stigma can echo into all aspects of our life and deeply impact how we relate to those around us, as well as how we reach out for help.
A lot of us still balk at the idea of taking a day off from work due to mental health issues, even though fair work practices acknowledge workplace stress as a valid reason to take a day off. Most workplaces nowadays are also becoming more understanding of mental health as a credible illness.
On a wider societal level, we are seeing increased funding into mental health services from both state and federal governments as they recognise the direct impact lockdown, isolation and the economic fallout of COVID-19 is set to have on our collective mental health. This is not to say that things are significantly improved, but we are seeing more and more awareness of mental health and emotional challenges, and the need for support.
So how do we keep improving?
To combat stigma, we need to work towards acceptance, not just within ourselves, but throughout our wider communities. Through acceptance comes real change and real understanding of mental health issues and the what people need to improve.
For those of us who have the energy, getting involved can be massively rewarding; not just to ourselves, but to our greater communities.
All across Australia, groups and organisations such as VMIAC are running numerous campaigns, research projects, data collection and services, all of which further our collective understanding about mental health.
For example, the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has been met with thousands of responses, leading to recommendations set to make massive changes within the mental health sector – and this is just one project!
Together, we are working to shine a light on the valid needs of those dealing with mental health issues. At times, this progress may seem slow or even counterproductive, but 2 steps forward and one step back, is still a step somewhere.