A deep expanse of nothingness, you find yourself staring off into space. At night, in the dark, you think about things. You find yourself thinking about things until the clock ticks over, one hour, perhaps another. All the bright and joyous things seem steadily deadened. No matter where you go, an atmospheric pall settles over the environment. The usual walks, the usual music, the usual work- it all seems somehow futile and hostile at once. We don’t say it, we don’t say anything. People are always talking about mental health, and about the importance of talking about mental health, but there is less said when it comes to the dim lull of suffering, the unrelenting frustration companied only by exhaustion.
The term ‘mental health’ has come to be a catch-all for a multitude of varied and complex states of mind, each one different from the next, and each person as varied as their minds. This term, though, has also become a buzzword. A quick add-in when an organisation needs to demonstrate open-mindedness and inclusivity. With all this talk of mental health, we’re quick to believe that we’re actively doing something about it. Discussion and contemplation can often feel like progress- when they are simply the gateway to progress.
Mental illness doesn’t always look like nothingness. Of course, all of us know that. Sometimes it looks like ordinary life, just faintly covered with the sense that something isn’t right. Sometimes it’s manic, passionate focus lasting days on end and spreading into the early hours of each morning. Other times it’s the uneasy sense that you don’t know yourself, don’t trust yourself- even less than you know and trust others. It’s not always obvious, even to ourselves.
When we confine mental health to a buzzword, when we overuse it in media and make false attempts to ‘destigmatise’ it, we can find ourselves doing the opposite. Many of us find ourselves holding a stigma so great that we push down any of our own feelings of mental ill-health, avoiding prospects of help in forms of theraputic or medical intervention. Even lists of resources become stigma in themselves, overwhelming strands of information, each URL and phone number a faceless ‘assistant’ in the face of something which isolates us.
How do we move from this space? How can we understand our own mental health in better ways, as well as the ways in which it affects others? We make progress when we talk about mental health complexly. Openness, honesty, finding community, understanding that this will take time. No more buzzwords, or stereotypes- only discussion which facilitates understanding.
How will you discuss mental health complexly?
Featured image: Finn via Unsplash.