#Mentalhealthawarenessweek 2021 has offered up a plethora of wonderfully insightful, thoughtful, and harrowing stories from people who have suffered from their mental health, and those who are passionate about raising awareness of various disorders and illnesses. But is it enough?
I have spent this week reading so many stories from people who have struggled through their mental health issues alone and have somehow managed to drag themselves to a better place. I have read stories from people who are having to fight tooth and nail to gain access to services they desperately need in order to make any progress with their mental health.
I have read stories of people who have put in hundreds of hours of time and effort with therapy, only to have their access to the service revoked due to budget cuts, leaving them in a terrifying limbo, alone.
Do you know what the worst part of reading those stories is? I read them last year too, and the year before. They may have been told by different people, they may have differed slightly in the featured disorder, and they may even be set in a different part of the country, but the same stories, the same desperate situations have been happening over and over again for years.
Awareness weeks are wonderful things, they help to educate people, they provide a safe space for people to talk about the issues they face in their lives, they even offer the chance to create a support group for those who may need it. But they do not enact meaningful change.
The truth is, on the whole, we are all reasonably aware that a quarter of the human race will suffer from their mental health at some point in their lives. We even know of at least a handful of mental health conditions that most people could name off the top of their head if asked.
We are aware of mental health, that is not the biggest issue for those who suffer anymore. The biggest problem is that progress in establishing change on a societal and systemic level is painfully slow!
We should certainly never stop discussing mental health and the struggles people face, we should normalise talking about it in professional and social settings. We should, however, be pushing for more meaningful change on a deeper level.
We should be actively working to ensure mental health services are properly funded, that mental health discussions are made a priority in our schools, that police custody is not an acceptable option for detaining those in crisis, let alone the only option!
Awareness is good. Action is better.