Have you noticed anything different about social media today? Seen anything crop up on your telly or see something at work?
I really hope you have. Today is World Mental Health Day (WMHD) and this year, it means business.
Statistics are rising. People are dying. More and more people are ‘coming out’ about the reality that many of them have been living with in secret for some time – several years, in some cases. They should never have needed to hide their mental illness, but they have.
The country is slowly waking up to the fact that our Mental Health provision through the NHS is failing and in many areas, terrifyingly non-existent. This is probably because whilst we push to create a society where mental illness is as accepted as any physical ailment, in encouraging people to speak out we are herding them towards services which are unfit for purpose and are already buckling under the strain of service users desperate for help. Usually, only when things really go south does anybody get told about it.
I sometimes wonder in the barrage of posts I make to Facebook whether anyone actually reads the information I post about mental illness in general, or my more specific posts about Borderline Personality Disorder. I share what I feel and even though these posts must be hard for my friends and loved ones to read sometimes, I share them anyway, because they’re the sort of things that nobody ever really thinks about when you try to describe what living with a mental illness is like.
Out of the blue two weeks ago I received two separate messages from two friends who I’ve not seen for some time, thanking me for my honesty and for my continual shares of information on Facebook. They both said that I’d helped them to better understand their own experiences and those of people close to them. I was so moved by both messages that I got a little damp-eyed and didn’t know how to respond. They encouraged me to keep going, though – to keep sharing, to keep doling out the Facebook and Twitter shares. And start this blog properly, which I have dreamt of for so many years but never quite had the nerve to do.
I’ve found that nerve now with a little help from my friends (#hopeyoulikethatearworm). It’s the ultimate proof that sharing can help, and can make a difference, no matter how frightening it is.
So here’s to WMHD and all the amazing campaigners who have been speaking out today. Here’s a quieter, more sedate shout out and hug to those of you who are battling and have found today hard for a multitude of different reasons. We are all fighting, and while we are able those of us who can find the energy to shout a little louder will do so. For everyone who had to sit down and have a cry today. For everyone who feels they can’t tell anyone what they’re going through because they’re afraid of looking weak.
For everyone in need, we will shout louder.