1 in 4 of us will experience some form of mental illness within the course of a year. If we are lucky and don’t experience it personally, we will know friends and family who do. For those who experience mental illness, it is somewhat demystified but not entirely so – it’s difficult to truly understand what it feels like to be so low that you cannot find enjoyment in your day to day, what it feels like to experience anxiety that imprisons us in our own house, what it feels like to compulsively and repeatedly wash our hands, what it feels like to want to binge and binge on chocolate only to, shortly after, rid ourselves of the calories consumed. We cannot truly understand unless we have lived through it and we cannot move on without a relative degree of insight and support
Mental illness is a common problem and it warrants no stigma, but the stigma does exist. Slowly but surely mental illness is being demystified by people coming out and talking about their experiences. If the public cannot put themselves in the shoes of someone with mental illness then we have to help them try the shoes on so to speak and share our experiences. We need to speak out and tell people how we are feeling (and it can be so very difficult to put it into words…), we need to share our story – yes, even the darkest of moments! If people don’t know how we are feeling then they can’t help us - pure and simple. Our family and friends, and the public as a whole, aren’t mind-readers; we need to let them in. We need to get the support that we need and ask for help – because we are so very worthy and deserving of it (even though we may not be in a place to think that way). And that is why the Mental Health Carnivals are so important – Carol from Dance without Sleeping launched these for us to share experiences and to spread awareness of mental illness. Mental illness is common, we are not alone, but we need to speak out, not just for ourselves but for those who will follow in our footsteps. We need to remind ourselves – and others, too - that hope and help exists.
I thought that I would include some suggestions for those who are struggling with ideas on what to write or want to approach your writing about mental illness from a different angle:
What would you tell your 18yr old self about mental illness?
What advice would you give to a friend newly diagnosed with a mental illness?
Do you have a mantra/quote/song that got you through a dark time?
Do you have a favourite self help book? Why would you recommend it?
Do you have a simple activity that consistently helps your mental health?
Is there one person who helped you more than anyone else? What did they do that helped?
Insight is a wonderful thing: when did you gain insight into your mental illness?
So if you would like to contribute to this month’s carnival please do get in touch with a link to your post or, if you wish to post anonymously, the original post you would like included. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . The closing date is Friday 24th May. I really do hope that you can link in; I’m really looking forward to reading your contributions and to hosting the carnival and helping to spread awareness of mental illness.