Stop the stigma around mental health: don’t suffer in silence
Now, more than ever, many of us are feeling the strain of the pandemic on our mental health. After long months of intermittent lockdowns, you may have noticed you’ve been feeling lethargic, sluggish or even lost confidence – particularly if you’ve been shielding. These are all signs that, maybe, things aren’t so great. But that’s okay, and in these times, perfectly normal. However, it’s still possible to do something about it. You wouldn’t ignore the symptoms of a physical medical problem, so why ignore the symptoms of poor mental health?
Feeling too awkward or ashamed to get help for the way you feel is a direct result of some of the stigma that surrounds issues of mental health. But it’s vital that if you need to speak to someone you reach out.
Here are five of the most common myths – busted:
1. You are not ‘Attention Seeking’.
Unfortunately, mental health issues like depression and anxiety are still seen by some as a way to gain sympathy. This is not the case! The severity of people’s emotional discomfort is often overlooked because of this view. This attitude can be extremely dangerous and make matters worse for individuals who feel genuinely depressed or anxious. More often than not, people who admit to having issues with their mental health have come a long way to even get to that point. When someone opens up about their feelings, it is vital that they are met with kindness and understanding. Remember, here at the Paul Popham Fund, we have trained and qualified counsellors who understand, and have faced many of the same issues you may now be facing.
2. Admitting to issues over mental health means people will think you are ‘crazy’.
Mental health issues across a wide spectrum, from mild depression or anxiety to suicidal thoughts or psychotic episodes. Because of this, many people refuse to ask for help because they believe they will be judged or treated differently. You may worry that if you admit to having problems people will think less of you. This is not the case! It is important to remember that these feelings are not always representative of the person.
When you do reach out, you will find that most people are deeply sympathetic and may have faced similar issues and worries themselves – these issues are more common than most people realise. It’s also important to remember that the earlier you address your own negative feelings the easier it is to treat them, and the less likely they are to grow into truly serious issues.
3. People think you’re over exaggerating, stating: “You have nothing to be depressed about”
Unfortunately, there are still some people who suggest that if a person has a successful life in terms of material wealth, family, and friends, then they can’t possibly be depressed. Sometimes, we may even be reminded that: ‘other people have it worse’.
Judgments like this are not only wrong but deeply unhelpful and can lead to the individual concerned feeling even more inadequate, accentuating their feelings of anxiety or depression. Comparing our lives to others’ is normal, however, it is important to remember that we all deal with difficult life experiences in different ways. Don’t let anyone devalue how you feel. Speak to one of our trained counsellors who will listen to you with an understanding and non-judgmental ear.
4. You must feel really bad to ask for help.
Simply not true! As has been said, the earlier you can try to get on top of your negative emotions the better. Even if you feel your issue is not a serious one, you can still reach out to someone and talk through how you’re feeling - you do not need to be in crisis to access emotional support. You may not even consider you need help at all and can cope with things on your own, but there’s no need to be stoic about it; we’re here to help. As they say: a problem shared is a problem halved.
5. You should just “Man Up”
This phrase is a reason why so many men suffer alone. The concept of manning up suggests that men aren’t allowed to have emotions or feelings. Besides this, it gives the impression that women aren’t as emotionally tough as men, and this is quite obviously not the case! Whichever gender you may be, speaking up about your mental health and reaching out for help when you need it is one of the bravest things any person can do.
Don’t forget that we, the Paul Popham Fund, are here for you. If you are feeling low, anxious, or just want to talk to someone who understands, call our Careline at any time to talk to a trained Peer Mentor. They will listen, offer emotional support for your mental well-being as well as offering lived experience as they too are people with kidney disease or carers. Our confidential Careline is available 9:00am-5:00pm, Monday to Friday and 10am to 2pm on a Saturday. You can arrange to talk to a Peer Mentor outside these hours by calling the same number or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are experiencing severe anxiety, are depressed or are generally not coping the charity also provides a counselling service which is available over the phone and accessed by the above contact details.