1 in 4 people in the UK suffer from some kind of mental illness each year. After decades of relentless work and unmatched dedication from campaigners and advocates, it’s finally okay to admit you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or/and an eating or personality disorder. YAY!
But sadly, I’m not quite yet ready to celebrate. Why? Because I’m not sure we’re actually accepting mental health issues for what they actually are – which is utterly unique to each person and able to creep up on us at any time, without any warning or set ‘rules’.
I can tell you that when I’m having a bad day, I avoid people. And when I cry in front of someone, I apologise. I’m happy to tell them my issues but wouldn’t dare ‘burden’ them by showing them Marie Meltdown-Mode! From this observation, I’ve come to the conclusion that although it is no longer shocking to say you have a mental illness, it is still very much frowned-upon to actually display signs of your condition.
Take employment legislation for example. Mental health sufferers are supposedly protected against discrimination under the Equality Act but I’ve heard more than a few horror stories that prove otherwise. Loopholes are left to be manipulated and the vulnerable are left to fight a losing battle.
As a freelancer, I’m blessed to be in the driving seat of my life (most of the time). I can fit things around my personal circumstances without having to explain myself. I can have a panic attack and then work from bed, rather than showing myself up in an office full of workers. I can take a Skype call with a crisp white shirt on up-top and jogging bottoms down-below, and I can release my bowels to relieve IBS without feeling conscious (yes, this shit actually happens, pardon the pun hahaha).
The point is I’m luckier than most (note it hasn’t always been this way) and still I wish everyone understood or at least respected the truth behind living with mental health issues more. Compassion alone is something I believe could make workplace a healthier, happier environment for everyone to be. We’re so focused on ‘playing the game’ and ‘being in it to win it’ we forget to ground ourselves in the reality that we are an integral part of.
Health is far greater than wealth. So what’s with the newspapers, magazines and celebrity bloggers shaming the likes of Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes, Selena Gomez, Zayn Malik and now Kanye West? I mean, we’ve all grieved over public figures (Tony Scott, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Robin Williams… to name just a few) who have lost their lives to drug abuse, suicide or mental health issues before… do we really want to point and laugh at those who need help and support again?