I’m frustrated by the hashtags that ‘trend’ on mental illness like #endthestigma, #itaffectsme. I know they spread ‘awareness’ and gets some of us talking about it, acknowledging that a lot of people are living with mental illness and that’s a great thing; a powerful message, that has needed to be addressed. I have no problem with that. But I don’t see the ‘action’, the solution, hashtags trending…where are they?
Honestly, you would have to be living under a rock not to know that mental illness is rampant and affecting more and more people. But I wanna see action. I wanna see people focussing on moving beyond the ‘hashtag’ labelling and DO something. Let’s start focussing on mental wellness.
How do the mentally well think? What habits do they employ? What practices do they use that keep their minds ‘well’. What are the mentally well group doing, that the mentally ill are not?
No, it’s not all that simple. We know there are degrees of mental illness and some genetic. But there is a large percentage of people suffering a mental illness as a direct result of childhood abuse, sexual, family violence, physical etc. Those in the latter category have every opportunity to recover and live mentally well.
But from what I observe on ‘mental health’, mindfulness pages, through twitter and facebook, a lot of the messages are focussing on the stigma itself, focussing on the label of mental illness and not nearly as much on moving toward mental wellness. Quotes just don’t cut it! They don’t mean anything to someone severely depressed or anxious. They need concrete strategies. Strategies we know work, through research, evidence and countless stories of people who’ve recovered. That’s what I would like to see saturated through my feeds instead of #itaffectsme or #endthestigma
Mental illness (in my opinion and my experience) is something we can overcome. It is something we can manage. But it takes understanding our thought patterns. It requires us to understand how our thoughts affect us physically and it requires education to unravel it. It requires understanding of the amazing power of our minds. To unlearn the patterns which have got us to the point where life in general overwhelms us and reduces our ability to function ‘normally’.
All I see with these hashtags is a focus on the problem. How about a focus on the solution?
Let’s empower and educate people who struggle with mental illness. Let’s give them specific tools and strategies that they can use to help reduce/manage their anxiety and depression, so they can live fulfilling lives, so they can move toward mental wellness. Let’s reduce the fear based messages around mental illness and give people more messages of hope. Let people know that they don’t have to accept mental illness as something they’re stuck with forever. That’s not fair.
I believe too many people living with a mental illness are simply bombarded with too many problem focussed hashtags (among many other negative statements) which keep them feeling disillusioned and powerless to change.
We have the power, the education, research and a wealth of resources available to us, particularly here in Australia and I don’t believe enough is being done to spread the message of hope, of overcoming.
This is something I’m incredibly passionate about. As a former mental illness sufferer, many doctors and psychologist were constantly trying to keep me on medications. They didn’t believe that I could take myself off meds and be ok. The doctors believed that medication was the ONLY way I could manage my anxiety and depression for the long term. I absolutely refuted this. I didn’t believe this and was determined to prove them and myself that I could overcome my mental state and so I began to work my arse off to get my head right. So I know first hand that we are capable of so much more, that we can overcome, if we have the determination and the belief that we can, as well as concrete strategies.
Further to this, I believe many people would absolutely feel more empowered to try, and take steps, to take action to overcome their illness and move toward mental wellness if the message in the media was far more empowering and solution focussed.