When I took this picture in a foggy forest I was there with two friends. One of them studying to become a psychiatrist and another one with a lot of experience from the patient side. With all of having an interest in the human mind it became a very rich conversation in which experiences and questions were shared. Last week was mental health week. The goal of this week is to raise awareness around mental health issues. I think the stigma around mental health illness and disability is slowly disappearing, however I do think that many of us have no idea what to look out for or how to support someone dealing with mental health issues.
It’s a tough question. How do you know that your sadness or pessimistic world view is not just a temporary bad mood in the morning, but a sign of depression? How do you know if someone in your family is losing his or her grip on reality in slowly getting into psychosis? I know many personal stories of friends and family that struggle with mental health issues. I have learned about the symptoms and ways of diagnosis in a clinical psychology class. I looked up some numbers from the World Health Organization. In the European region, 1 out of 15 people suffer of major depression. If you include anxiety and all depression are included, it’s 4 out of 15. Think about it. If you meet on a birthday party with 20 people, there will be like 5 people who are personally familiar with symptoms of only depression. Don’t forget that there are many more mental health illnesses.
According to the World Health Organization, less than 50 % of the people with a mental health problems, have professional help. That to me is alarming. So many people walk around with issues that prevent them from functioning normally in daily life. Yet taking the step to speak out is difficult. It is vulnerable. I’ve seen it so many times that people keep on trying to the point where it just doesn’t work any more. The mist in your head never seems to clear again.
We can have a Mental Health Day every month. Yet the awareness around these issues starts small. If you know that you are likely to suffer from these issues. Go see your doctor. Talk to a friend. You are not alone in this. There is so much professional help out there for you. And yes, I am not promising you that you will feel better the next day. Often these processes take years. It is not an easy road to walk. You might have to learn to live with it.
If you know people in your surroundings that are going through a tough part in life, support them. Encourage them to talk or seek help. Above all listen.