What is World Mental Health Day? A sterling question and I’m glad you asked because it’s coming up very soon – the 10th of October, to be precise, as it does every year – and it is more than just 24 hours of the year that we, as a society, have decided to dedicate to the topic of Mental Health, it is an opportunity.
Now lots of people use those typically vague and cliché soundbites that I have just done but never do they ring truer than on World Mental Health Day and that is simply because the topic itself is unprecedented in its scale – we all know that 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental health challenges at any point during their life, we all know that suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged under 50 in the United Kingdom but still, still, there is a perceived stigma around the whole conversation.
Let’s be clear, if this was cancer then we would be pouring funding for research and awareness out of our veins, if you have as much as a bump on your forehead or a graze on your arm then people, without fail, will ask you about it – how it happened, how it feels, “ooh, are you okay?” – but that just doesn’t happen when it comes to mental health for the very simple reason being that it isn’t a visible illness.
Except it is. If you know someone well enough then, in most cases, you can tell when something isn’t quite right whether it is something as simple as being slightly more tired than usual, a loss of confidence or even not going down to the pub as often as they used to – you know the person and you know what they’re like but, in many cases, we don’t feel the need to check up when we notice slight differences.
And that’s not a slur, that’s not to say people who do that are bad because EVERYONE is guilty of it!
Hence why we have World Mental Health Day, every year, on October 10th with over 150 countries worldwide participating with the singular aim being to raise awareness over the hundreds of mental health illness, because it’s not just depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and to start a conversation in the media as well as between you and your friends.
It doesn’t even have to be anything major and that’s the crux of it – we’re not asking you to go from “What do you think of Paul Pogba this season?” to the next sentence, “Be honest, Paul, are you depressed?” – a simple “how are you?” is all that is required.
Oftentimes, and I speak from experience, people WILL be reluctant to open up but the reassurance that someone is asking and cares about them is enough to ease the pressure just a little bit and, trust me, when you’re in that situation the tiniest amount of breathing space is invaluable.
A very simple message, then – OCTOBER 10TH. ASK YOUR FRIENDS HOW THEY ARE.*
*and then do it every other day of the year, too, or it doesn’t count.