World Mental Health Day: why silence is the biggest killer

World Mental Health Day: why silence is the biggest killer

As Mondays go, this is a pretty good one. I didn’t drink last night so woke up feeling pretty perky (and quite smug). I didn’t shout at the kids (pretty smug about that one, too). And the sun is shining. In fact I’d go as far to say it’s a glorious day.

Or at least it was. Since opening up my laptop and preparing myself for the day ahead I have discovered today is World Mental Health Day. And suddenly things seem less sunny.

We fool ourselves we are connected to the outside world via social media, but clicking ‘like’ on Facebook isn’t the same as engaging with someone on a real and personal level.

I’m normally sceptical about these organised group rituals, where we are told what to eat, drink and think – often in a bid to boost a marketing campaign.  National tea day (sponsored by Tetley), eat more chocolate week (in association with Cadbury), national yoga month (backed by Dr Downward)… Even Valentines, which is blatantly driven by the card industry, makes me come out in hives.

Basic acts of kindness

But it’s hard to be cynical about mental health. Especially when you see the stats released by the World Health Organisation. Unsurprisingly they make for depressing reading, which at least makes them consistent with their message...

One in six adults suffers from mental health problems and, we are told, if we don’t “act urgently” depression will become the world’s leading illness by 2030. I’m not sure whether addressing mental health one day a year, on 10 October, can be labelled as ‘urgent action’, but at least it’s a start.

This year’s theme is psychological first aid and the support people can provide to those in distress. It’s about reaching out to somebody you know is struggling – whether that’s making them a cup of tea or offering to take their kids for an hour or two.

My challenge for today is to ask my husband how he’s feeling and then just listen. I won’t secretly think about what I’m cooking for dinner, or wonder whether I won that vintage dress on eBay.

We shouldn’t need a national day to remind us about these basic acts of kindness, but it’s so easy to get caught up in our own everyday dramas. We fool ourselves we are connected to the outside world via social media, but clicking ‘like’ on a Facebook page isn’t the same as engaging with someone on a real and personal level.

According to the Mental Health Foundation the number one thing you can do to look after your mental wellbeing is to talk about your feelings. Funnily enough posting your status doesn’t even make the top ten.

Biggest male killer

So put down your phone, put away your laptop and call someone. Actually, pick up your phone again – you’re going to need that. The key thing here is to start a dialogue, and then listen. That’s often the tricky bit.

Like many women I’ve never had a problem with talking. It’s shutting up I struggle with. Getting men to open up, however, can be harder than cracking a macadamia nut at Christmas. A growing number of high profile ‘real’ men are opening up about their depression (from Bruce Springsteen to premiership footballers), but regular guys are still loath to chat about their emotions. Little wonder that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.

I’m not saying we can fix our men by simply listening. It’s far more complex than that. But again, at least it’s a start.

So my challenge for today is to ask my husband how he’s feeling and then just listen. I won’t secretly think about what I’m cooking for dinner, or wonder whether I won that vintage dress on eBay. I will look up from what I’m doing, and I will offer my support.

And then I’ll try not to leave it until 10 October 2017 before I do it again.

What will you do on World Mental Health Day to support a friend or family member? We would love to hear your stories.  

Written by Charlotte Ricca-Smith, journalist and blogger.  Charlotte writes about real health, real life and real women.

  

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