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'Raising awareness about mental health is only part of the equation'

Brands, celebrities and online communities all did their bit for World Mental Health Day last weekend, and when you consider this outreach compared to that of even five years ago, it’s really quite remarkable how far we’ve gone to break down the silence that has typically surrounded the subject.

That said, so much more still needs to be done, because raising awareness is only part of the equation. We still lack the vocabulary to properly articulate the various nuances of mental health, which in turn makes it difficult to understand the difference between illness, a lack of mental fitness and generally feeling down. We still lack the education to properly understand what it takes to put the right programmes in place, and how to manage our own mental fitness. Society, generally speaking, still doesn’t truly understand the wide-reaching ramifications of poor mental fitness on the community, in order to support the case for wider investment into the healthcare system.

We must be careful to not congratulate ourselves too much for sharing a hashtag or a picture on our social media platforms, with the sentiment of people knowing that we’re there, and then assuming that the job is done. We must try and kick start a self-motivated movement similar to the one that surrounds physical fitness, and we must move the dial away from the idea of ‘mental health’ being a negative clincal position that needs returning to ‘normal’. Mental fitness can always be improved, even if you feel fine.

Finally, we must focus on breaking the taboo surrounding this subject. We must stop the tendency to tilt our head and strike an apologetic tone when someone explains their own mental fitness challenges. Sympathy is of course not a bad thing, but care must be taken not to project a mournful tone on to someone else’s reality. Frank conversations, honest reflections, positive action. That’s the real goal.

Author credit: Chris Moriarty

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