Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Our mental-health ambassador Kirsty Taylor penned a few words ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week:

Available evidence from Public Health England indicates an increasing number of cases of stress, anxiety, and depression across the population as lockdowns take their toll on mental health and wellbeing. There is still a lot of stigma around mental health, which is why I feel it super important to speak up. Now more than ever, especially during mental health awareness week, we need to be more open about mental health. 

I used to be embarrassed to admit I struggled with anxiety and depression. I tried so hard to hide it. Some days I did pretty well, smile, make jokes go about my day. No one would know anything was bothering me. Other days it was shying away from social situations because I would become a ball of nervousness for reasons I couldn’t explain. It was utterly crippling. On my worst days, it was blatant. Those days used to be all-consuming to the point I couldn’t function. My emotions were on my sleeve; you would see me physically shake. The first time I started to accept that I may have a mental illness was seeing the consultant write displaying signs of depression on my record. (I don’t think I have even shared that with my nearest and dearest). Before that, I recognised symptoms in myself but was in denial. 

There’s no doubt mental illness can suck. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. When you are in that place, it’s hard to see how it will improve, but it absolutely can, and oh my gosh, there can be positives to come out of the darkness. Here are some lessons mental ill-health has taught me.               

1. Smiles can be deceiving. 
Just because someone is smiling outwardly doesn’t mean that they are smiling inwardly. The simple fact is that we don’t know what anyone else is going through. It takes nothing to be kind to someone. Checking in with friends can make a huge difference, especially if they stop joining in events they usually enjoy. Keep inviting them, rearrange it’s often not personal more often than not they just can’t face people or things that day. 

2. Mistakes can be a good thing.
Things don’t always go to plan (remember 2020, anyone?) Beating ourselves up about mistakes or things not going to plan won’t change anything. There is a solution to everything, even if is it’s not the one we would like. Pivot and unprecedented became the buzzwords of 2020. More often than not, there are many lessons to be learned when things go wrong that can shape us. We can draw from our own experiences and help others learn lessons from them too. 

3. There is no such thing as ‘Normal.’ We are all different; that’s what makes us human. Life would be pretty dull if we were all carbon copies of each other. 

4. Other peoples’ opinions of you aren’t your business.
You aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s ok. Similarly, there will be people you don’t like. Maybe even family members you don’t like or are toxic. You don’t have an obligation to keep people around you who don’t want to have around. It can be liberating to free yourself from energy drainers.

5. Be yourself 
The key to being happy is to be yourself. Live life by your own values, set your own goals. Society still teaches us we should go to school, college, university, get a good job, get married, buy a house, have kids etc. This route is just not for everyone!  

6. Self-care is not selfish. It’s essential. 
If we look after ourselves, then everything else gets taken care of. We all have different needs and ways to satisfy them.  

7. There is good in every circumstance.
Always look for the positive in every situation. It might be harder to find than the negative, but once you find it, that’s where you should channel your focus. 

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