My Unawareness of Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental health is the elephant in the room. It’s a subject we tiptoe around and if possible, avoid at all costs. Yet recently in a University of Nottingham survey, 80% of students said they had either experienced, or were experiencing mental health issues. The stigma surrounding being unwell, combined with the lack of understanding from others, has made mental health a taboo subject. But something is changing. People are speaking out about their experience with mental health- releasing blog posts and YouTube videos to show other sufferers they are not alone.  Steps are being made every day to combat the silence surrounding depression and anxiety. So until a few days ago, why did I have no idea that Mental Health Awareness Week even existed?

MHAW in Nottingham begins on the 5th October. There are loads of events, from lectures and workshops, to film festivals and carnivals, and a lot of effort has gone into organising the event. But, where is the promo? Where are the Facebook shares? I’m pretty sure I can guess why social media has kept quiet. Posting something on Facebook about Mental Health Awareness Week feels like admitting to hundreds of Facebook friends that you are mentally ill.

There’s a common worry that if people think you’re depressed they won’t know how to act around you- will they judge you and treat you differently? I know these thoughts because I used to think them, and sometimes still do. I was petrified of being considered ‘mentally unwell’ because I didn’t want people to treat me differently. I was worried my parents wouldn’t understand and would just dismiss my illness as attention seeking. I didn’t want anyone to think I was weak. I now know that being unwell isn’t a weakness, and admitting you’re unwell shows bravery. Fighting against mental illness shows power. I have experienced all of these stages and admitting to my parents that I wasn’t okay was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Considering mental illness is something the majority of young people suffer from, why should those who suffer be scared of the reaction from friends and family, say, when telling them they are seeing a counsellor? In an ideal world, no explanation would be needed for admitting that you don’t know why you’re unwell, you just are. Unfortunately, this does not reflect the reality. When I told my parents, they didn’t understand. Since telling them a year ago, the subject hasn’t been addressed once. They’re scared they will say the wrong thing and ‘set me off'. MHAW is about stopping this kind of damaging behaviour. I want my parents to know they can ask what’s going on, and I want to know I can tell them.

If you don’t understand why you feel the way you do, you shouldn’t worry that people won’t believe you. If you suddenly break down one day over the silliest thing, it doesn’t mean that you’re attention seeking. Just because there is no visible injury, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one at all. If you share an MHAW post, it doesn’t mean people will judge you, or stop talking to you- if they do they’re not worth it! The next post I see I’m going to share. Let’s raise awareness. Let’s show the world we can talk about Mental Health.