A few weeks ago it was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. In our fast-moving, productivity focused society, it is extremely easy to take mental health for granted. Not just easy but often encouraged. Pushing yourself to the extreme is valued in many sectors and performance rather than wellbeing has become the focus.
Of course, pushing yourself isn’t always a bad thing. Hard work, grinding and putting in the hours is extremely rewarding and often necessary. But it can become extremely easy to blur the lines between pushing yourself and punishing yourself, and signs of mental illness often go unnoticed or brushed off as stress.
Luckily for all of us, mental health awareness has increased significantly in the last few years. The charity Time To Change is particularly wonderful in its aims to end discrimination against mental health. They run the ‘ask twice’ campaign, which runs on the basis that ‘sometimes we say we’re fine, even if we’re not’. They encourage people to ask ‘are you okay?’ a second time if they’re worried about someone, as people won’t always feel comfortable answering truthfully the first time. The Royal Family have introduced the Heads Together campaign which aims to improve mental wellbeing across the UK and root out discrimination against mental illness. During Mental Health Awareness week, the BBC ran a series of documentaries and programmes documenting Mental Health featuring celebrities such as Alistair Campbell, Nadiya Hussain, Professor Green and David Harewood talking openly about their mental health struggles. It is discussions such as this that can decrease discrimination by revealing that mental health is something that anyone can suffer from, bringing it into mainstream conversation.
Clearly, having an entire week dedicated to Mental Health Awareness can do wonders for improving our understanding of it and helping to support people. As newspapers ran stories, celebrities spoke out on Instagram, and Universities ran campaigns and support groups, the conversation surrounding mental health grew and awareness was spread.
We hope to see this continue into the year ahead. I believe Mental Health is of the utmost importance and should never be sidelined for anything else. Every week should be mental health awareness week, and as we move into a society which focuses more on the importance of mental health, hopefully it will be.