© 2018 by Patrick Sullivan

World Mental Health Day 2017: Reaching Out To Any Silent Sufferers

October 11, 2017

Yesterday was a day to talk about mental health worldwide, and I hope everyone who needed to hear positive dialogue on the subject heard it. It is remarkable how important it can be to hear reassuring words, even if they aren't specific.




Firstly, it's important to praise all those who have opened up and spoke about their personal struggles with mental health. On social media, at seminars or talks, or in person to a friend, relative, colleague, or stranger, you are resetting the prejudices about depression, anxiety, and all other mental health problems. But we should not kid ourselves, for everyone who opened up as part of yesterday's campaign, there are plenty more who suffer in silence and are drowning without the support they need.


The Mental Health Foundation for the UK estimated in 2016 that 75% of people with mental health problems don't get access to the required treatment. So for every person talking about their heart warming journeys to stabilisation yesterday, there could be three other people whose coping mechanism is self-taught, their suffering lonely and unspoken, a cycle of inner destruction glazed over with the smiles and laughs and the infectious energies we read about in tragic obituaries. The antithesis of the classic eulogy "happiest person in the room" in suicide coverage cannot be ignored. Sometimes, there is simply no correlation between external behaviour and mental health.


"The antithesis of the classic eulogy "happiest person in the room" in suicide coverage cannot be ignored."


It cannot be stressed how important the open dialogue that occurred yesterday from sufferers and non-sufferers was yesterday. Because some people will not feel able to speak about their own issues, and just to simply hear the world discuss it all in a positive light might have felt like a small step for many badly affected people towards talking about it.


The theme for yesterday's campaign was Mental Health In The Workplace. And I believe it to be an important theme. Many offices in this country are detached from the good work that occurs in the community. Many offices are divided, cliquey landscapes where it is possible to spend forty hours a week in silence at your computer, doing enough to survive and communicating via email. It is the sort of repeated environment which triggers regular episodes, through association of place or routine. Work can create a daily cycle of mental difficulties, and a culture of silence in fear of getting the sack. The dialogue needs to be open everywhere and everyday, and workers need to feel they can say to their bosses, "I feel shit right now and I don't know why." And companies need to realise that productivity will come with improved understanding and acceptance of our minds.


So where do we go from here? There are many solutions difficult to implement: financial investment, training solutions, etc. They are crucial in the coming years and organisation such as Mind and the Mental Health Foundation are campaigning every day for that, not just once a year. But, for anyone suffering in silence, for everyone, dialogue is the important step: if you are afraid, an easy, first step is to make an anonymous call to Samaritans or Nightline (for students). And when you first open up to someone, talk to someone else soon after. The good habit of openness needs to be maintained. It is important to a support network from across your life, one person in your family, one close friend, one friend at work, etc. In all facets of our lives, we need to feel like we can be open and sincere.

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