You and I don’t quite know each other yet – but let’s get uncomfortable for a second.
Ever catch a glimpse of crooked, inflamed scars you weren’t meant to see? Or notice the unusual monotonous lilt to a loved one’s cadence? Or the darkening circles under eyes and sallow cheeks marking days of unrest?
More often than not, we brush these observations aside and conceive excuses to justify it. Thoughts like I’m sure they know where to go for help and I don’t know what to say anyway creep in our heads and sink in our hearts, distancing ourselves from the situation. Unintentionally, we avoid having a conversation that saves lives, blaming it on ignorant minds and misplaced trust.
In this day and age, stigma and negative connotations towards mental illnesses continue to exist – even though they really shouldn’t. Our lack of understanding and fear is oftentimes reflected in the way we converse and in the lexicon we use, especially for some unfamiliar to the adversities that accompany poor mental health. This consequently influences the hesitancy and reluctance towards getting help and treatment.
Thus, the importance of awareness.
The arrival of October offers more than just snow-skin mooncakes and sweet pumpkin buns. The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has specially designated the month of October as Mental Health Awareness Month, an important movement we believe should be observed.
World Mental Health day was inaugurated on October 10th, 1992. Since then, the WFMH has dutifully advocated for greater general awareness and the importance of mental health, adopting October to cover specific mental illnesses, disorders, and conditions.
Mental illness does not discriminate and neither should we. Individuals across all ages, genders, and ethnicities can be affected by a mental illness; a non-exhaustive list includes depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and developmental disorders like autism. A mental disorder can also be presented differently or even be entirely invisible, making it difficult to accurately diagnose and challenging to treat.
It’s in the spirit of compassion and empathy that we take the step in helping those that need it. We have the power to be the light in another’s darkest days, the odds to advocate for the voiceless when no one does, the strength to stand when some of us can barely breathe.
It is in our hands now to change the way mental health is perceived, to treat the illnesses as it is – an illness. There should be no hesitation in spreading awareness, in breaking the stigma that divides and distances us, in familiarising ourselves with the common signs someone is struggling with their mental health, in making an appointment and reaching out when the days threaten to storm by.
It’s time for a change, one with a first step we’ll take together.
We’ll touch on signs and resources in our next article, curated to help both you and I.