The 10th of October yearly is World Mental Health Day. Think about it right now as you are reading this there is someone in your life who is suffering from a mental illness whether you know about it or not, there is. And today is a day where we can all open the doors of communication and talk about it, enrich and even save lives, with the goal of making every day a day just like this.
Here are the bare facts that as a citizen of the human race you need to know about. In Australia alone:
At least 6 people commit suicide everyday
For every failed suicide there are 30 attempts
More people die from suicide than road accidents
1 in 5 Australians suffer from a mental health problem
54% of people with a mental illness do not access treatment
These findings are for lack of a better word depressing but the good news is, it is entirely possible to improve them and save more lives. And believe it or not it all starts with you.
This years Mental Health Day theme is: “Do you see what I see?”. This personally resonated with me, as earlier this year I realised that many people view and even judge those with a mental health problem as ‘weak’ or ‘disabled’ or ‘not as strong as a “normal person”‘. When I first heard this I was honestly really confused and thought they surely couldn’t be serious but unfortunately they were. I found as the months rolled on that this is actually a pretty common opinion and even a large part of why a stigma surrounding mental health still exists. I’m in no way trying to point blame at anyone who holds an opinion at all but rather just point out a flaw in societal thinking which can be fixed and if we all work together and try to change it, something genuinely positive could emerge for those who live with mental illness every day.
The strongest people I know have suffered or still suffer from a mental health problem. They are simply the bravest, most honest, most incredible people you could ever meet and the world is simply a better place with them in it. There is no doubt that these strong people have suffered and have gone through vast amounts of pain and deep moments of emotional fragility and weakness but in their fragility comes their strength. It takes more strength and courage than you could ever know (unless you’ve been there) to admit to yourself that you have a mental health illness, it takes an enormous heart to be honest enough to tell your support network that you need help, it takes an open mind and a strength of character to take that help and improve your life one day, one moment, one breath at a time. It takes more bravery to say no to suicide and yes to living a (at least in the moment) painful existence and getting through that slowly, than it does to accuse those who have a problem as being ‘weak’.
The strongest people I know are honest. They are honest with themselves, with their loved ones, with society and with anyone who will listen that they are not always okay. And they know that being okay all the time is an impossible goal and just a plain lie. It is 100% okay, to not be okay sometimes, even if your sometimes is longer than usual. In their honesty they show a strength, that can only be highlighted in times of great fragility. If you are suffering from a mental illness right now and you have been honest about what is happening for you then I applaud you on your strength- seriously well done!
Earlier this year I had the honour of attending a special event called Stand Tall, which is an event aimed at high school students, inviting guest speakers to come and speak about difficulties and trauma they have experienced in their lives and how they got through it. These are often related to mental health issues. One of the speakers spoke about her difficult experience growing up in a war torn, developing country in Africa and how she was tortured and used as a sex slave and yes, how this severely affected her mental health for some time. Once she was assigned to take refuge in Australia years later, she chose to take steps in improving her thinking and her willingness to live life. She said that it was her ‘choice’ to get better. And it was. But this is a long journey which happens day at a time, with so many twists and turns a long the way.
I had so much admiration for this guest speaker. Having lived such an unfortunate childhood, she now chooses to be a positive, empathetic person who welcomes life, all while setting up charity work which helps others. And that’s the other incredible thing about the strongest people I know- not only have they gone to the edge of their life, been pushed as far as they could go and chosen to be honest and help themselves in times of incredible darkness, but now that they are through (mostly) they use a large portion of their lives to advocate, volunteer, listen and help other people going through the rough part of their story.
So it was at this moment that I realised, the strongest people in this world are not those who have been through no hardship. They are not those who think they can pass judgement on another persons difficult situation. They are not those who look from the outside. The strongest people in this world are those that have suffered, and through their fragility have found their strength.
World Mental Health Day is 10th of October every year. You can make a mental health promise or read more about how to donate or get involved with the cause at https://1010.org.au