Today is World Mental Health Day. If you work in health care you’re probably already well aware of this. If you don’t, this tells you a bit more about it. And there are facts and stats on the website too. Like 1 in 6 adults have had a common mental health problem in the last week. Or that if we don’t act urgently by 2030 depression will be the leading illness globally. Shocking isn’t it? Even more shocking is that it’s such a common problem and yet we still don’t talk about it.

How many people do you know who have a chronic health problem? Asthma? Diabetes? Coeliac disease? Psoriasis? Arthritis? Epilepsy? Heart disease? They may not make a big deal about it, but they let people know for various reasons – because they need to prevent inadvertent triggers, or they need people to know what to do if there’s an emergency, or they want to raise awareness and educate people. Or because it’s a part of who they are and why shouldn’t they talk about it? Or it’s obvious to everyone and people want to be supportive and helpful if required. Chronic disease is a part of their life.

How many people do you know with a mental health problem? How many people have said to you ‘I have chronic anxiety and I need to be careful about these things…’ or ‘I get very low sometimes and when it happens I can’t manage such and such..’? Not too many, I bet. But mental health problems are a part of life too.

Chronic anxiety and low mood have been a part of my life for about 40 years. Less frequently as I’ve learned to recognise early symptoms and to utilise coping strategies, but it’s still there – a part of me. At the moment I’m in a bout of anxiety and low mood. I missed the early signs because I was dealing with family deaths, juggling work, supporting others. It will pass – I have a supportive GP, a patient husband and I understand what’s happening and that it will go away. I talk about it. I’ve been open about it with work colleagues and senior people. I’m writing about it. I’m not ashamed of it, it’s a chronic problem and I deal with it in the same way that others have to deal with ‘flares’ of auto-immune disease, or unstable diabetes or asthma. I sometimes need to take time off, but it’s rare these days. Even during the current bout (which has been bad), 3 to 4 weeks of time out is seeing me pretty much back to ‘normal’.

So, on World Mental Health Day remember that even the most confident, the most lively, the most unlikely person may well be suffering and keeping it to themselves, because they don’t know how YOU might react if they tell you. Maybe you could surprise them. 🙂

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