Mental Health Awareness Week
About once a fortnight on Facebook, at least one of my Friends will run a status update beginning with the words “This week is Mental Health Awareness Week”. These posts will then remind everyone to be aware of mental health issues in some way, offering a call to end the stigma often attached to conditions which affect the mind. I was not convinced that all of these weeks could possibly be Mental Health Awareness Week, and a little research showed that in the UK, the week beginning 21st May is the 2012 week of that name, at least according to the Mental Health Foundation and the NHS. Hence this post.
One side of my family has a history of mental illness, and I am no exception to this. I have written about it before, but not for quite some time, and I think perhaps this is something I should be more open about, so this Week seems like a sensible time to mention it again. Over the years I have found that others who know that I have these issues have felt able to come and talk to me about their own struggles with mental health, whether temporary or ongoing. I am not always able to give them any sensible advice, but sharing our experiences seems to help both parties.
The theme of the week for 2012 is that doing good is good for you – random (or not so random) acts of kindness can be just as good for the doer as the receiver. It is most definitely true that what you do has a big effect on how you feel, whether you have a recognised mental health condition or not. The intent is not so much to raise awareness of mental illness, but to help everyone learn more about how to improve their own mental health and wellbeing. Previous years have had a focus on anger, fear and loneliness, all of which affect everyone to a greater or lesser extent. It will be interesting to see how widely publicised the week is and how much it encourages people to engage with its ideas.
Although the Facebook status updates mentioned at the start of this post are not all accurate in terms of dates, they do offer a glimpse of reality. For those who have a mental health condition, every week is automatically Mental Health Awareness Week. In my case, sometimes I’m mostly OK, sometimes I’m really not, but it would be very rare for a whole week going by without something happening to remind me that the chemicals in my brain are out of balance. Whether it is unwanted thoughts, a loss of appetite and energy, unprovoked tears or even minor visual or (more likely) auditory hallucinations, something or some things will remind me, even on a good week, of the negative things my brain can get up to, making every week an awareness week in a quite different sense.