Can you imagine living each and every day having to lug a giant weight chained to you? It might be sitting on your shoulders, making it impossible to stand properly. Or sitting on your chest, making it impossible to breathe clearly. Or maybe chained to your leg, making it impossible to move. It’d suck balls, right? Well often that’s what it feels like each and every day for people dealing with mental health issues.
Only we can’t see those heavy burdens that they carry. They look like they’re walking fine, talking fine. They might smile and chat, laugh and hug. But those heavy weights are there, and they can be suffocating.
Isn’t it funny that in 2015 we’re still so in the dark about many things? Many simple, basic things. One of those things is mental health. We’ve come so far, but yet still so far away from a cohesive understanding, and decent support for mental health issues. We still think of it as some weird, taboo thing, something many try to sweep under the rug, or discount as ‘not really being a thing’.
Think about it:
The mum striding past you with baby in the pram
The top level executive with his impeccable suit
The teen sitting in the library studying for exams
The high level sports star
The world famous celebrity
They can all experience the same thing. And you’d never know just from seeing them. And that’s what I think we struggle with when it comes to mental health. We can’t physically see it. So we assume if someone looks ok, then they are ok. And that is so far from the truth at times. Probably doesn’t help when we have our politicians (*cough* Bob Hawke *cough* Mark Latham… just sayin’) at the time discounting the reality of mental health issues, and the impact that they have on each and every one of us.
So we’ve had to come up with a day. A day to remind ourselves to check in with others. R U OK Day is a great initiative. It raises our awareness of such hidden demons that many of us battle on a day-to-day basis. It reminds us that not everything on the surface is rosy, and we can’t judge a book by its cover. But, why do we need to wait for a specific day to do this? Why is it that we get all concerned and check in for one day, and then the rest we forget?
We also get scared if someone is honest and says ‘no, I’m not OK’. We don’t want to hear that. Because that is scary, and that is the unknown, often we feel out of our depths. Maybe that’s why we don’t ask if someone is ok more regularly?
If someone isn’t ok, the biggest thing to remember is you don’t need to ‘fix’ them. And often that person who isn’t ok doesn’t want you to try to fix them. But they do want you to just be there. That’s what really counts. If you don’t know what to say, be honest. They’ll appreciate that over some throw away one-liner. Sometimes we need to also be the ones to say to others ‘its ok if you’re not ok’, and allow that person to open up about what’s going on with them.
One of the biggest groups we need to ask if they’re ok is our kids. More and more kids are being diagnosed with mental health issues, and at earlier ages these days. If we can get it right with them, then we might have a hope of changing a generation’s thinking around these issues.
So while tomorrow is great to ask ‘R U OK?’, let’s not just leave it for one day a year. Check in regularly. Be honest about how you’re feeling and if you’re not feeling great, then there’s so much help out there. And parents? If your child isn’t feeling great- get them the help they need. I can’t tell you the frustration I feel when parents refuse for their child to be seen by a psych, even though it is evident how much the child could benefit from some support. We’re not freaks, we’re there to help. We won’t corrupt your child…. other than to maybe offer them a lolly for being so brave and opening up. In a non-creepy way of course.
When we hide from the issue, we send a message to future generations that it is something scary and something to be feared. We’ve got a chance to make a change for our kids, and so we have to try.
R U OK Day is on tomorrow, 10th September. If you’re in Sydney they’re having a neat shindig at Centenary Park, Parramatta from 11:30am-1:30pm. They also have a neat Facebook page and Twitter set up. If you need any more ideas, check out my helpful stuff page. And there’s also some neat printables that might help too.
Do you check in regularly with friends and family? And are you honest when people ask if you’re ok? Or are you like me and plaster that smile on and say “all good!” when maybe it’s not so good? Hmmm…. I need to take my own advice, yes?