Mental health can be a serious issue and it’s a real shame that it isn’t always easy for individual people to talk about it or indeed society as a whole to face up to it. February 6th is Time to Talk Day here in the UK and it is hoped that this date will be one on which people begin conversations about mental health in order to help raise awareness and demonstrate that mental illness and talking about mental illness are not things to be ashamed of. Here are five aspects of mental health and talking about mental health that I feel are really important:

1. Mental health problems affect lots of people every year. It is estimated that in any one year, one in four people in the UK will be be affected by a mental health problem. When you think that this could mean one quarter of your friends, one quarter of your family members and one quarter of your colleagues, this shows how big an issue this is. Although statistics on their own do not necessarily suddenly make life a lot easier for those affected by mental health issues, these figures do show that such people are far rom alone in terms of the issues that they face. I also feel that these facts should mean that society – whether that be the government, workplaces or individuals – has a duty to act in a sensitive and proactive manner to face up to the scale of mental health issues by being both tolerant and supportive.

2. I have real respect for people who speak of their own experiences of dealing with mental health issues, although I appreciate that not everyone will want to talk about these sorts of issues publicly. Just this week, I watched a very moving YouTube video of fellow dad blogger Lorne Jaffe talking about his experience of battling anxiety and depression in a very moving speech at the recent Dad 2.0 conference for dad bloggers in the US.

What I found very moving about Lorne’s speech was not just how he described his own experiences but the way that they clearly touched everyone at the event who was listening to what he had to say. A climate of empathy and support is something that I am sure benefits everyone and helps to make it easier for people affected by mental health issues to face up to them and talk to other people about them. Lorne Jaffe’s blog is called Raising Sienna and it’s well worth checking out.

3. I’d like to see the notion of ‘mental health first aid’ become more widely recognised. Mental health first aid wasn’t a term that I was familiar with until I attended an excellent two day training course last year that focused on different forms of mental health problems and ways of supporting people whose lives are affected by such issues. It’s fairly common for people in all sorts of different work places to train as first aiders so as they know some basic skills to apply if someone suffers an injury, but why isn’t this sort of approach extended to recognising and dealing with mental health issues? As the Time for Change campaign points out, it is likely that we all work with someone who is experiencing a mental health problem. Although attending a course on ‘Mental health first aid’ won’t suddenly mean that you’re able to identify, treat and resolve all the mental health issues that people around you may be facing, it will provide a lot of information and tips about how to approach mental health issues in a sensitive and supportive manner.

4. I really don’t like the phrase ‘man up’ and the sort of values that it implies. As I said in one of the first posts I did on this blog and also a more recent post about men’s health issues, I strongly dislike the way that the phrase ‘man up’ is often used in a way that discourages men from showing or talking about emotions. As mental health issues affect large numbers of both men and women, members of both genders should be equally free to talk about them and receive support. On a positive note, I really enjoyed reading this blog post by Carlos Andrés Gómez that seeks to re-appropriate the term ‘man up’ and put it to better use. I also identified with the sentiments expressed in the poem ‘Ten Responses to the Phrase “Man Up”‘ that is performed by the poet Guante in the video below (please note that the video contains some strong language).

5. As a dad, I hope that our son grows up in a world where he and all his friends will be encouraged to talk about mental health issues no matter what their gender or background. This may sound somewhat idealistic but I really do hope that initiatives such as Time to Change and Time to Talk Day will help to raise awareness of mental health and to change misconceptions. Even if you are busy today, it’s well worth clicking on this link and spending a few minutes reading over the statistics, facts and myths about mental health that it details. If you click on the link, you will find other links to additional information and sources of support at the bottom of the page. When it comes to dads and mental health, this blog post by the The Secret Father is also well worth reading.

What do you think about attitudes to mental health where you live? What needs to change and are there any positives in terms of approaches to mental health that you are aware of?  

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