WMHD – an encouraging day!

Today has been a really encouraging day for me.

I have spent the day in Hammersmith taking part in the Big Mental Health day. A conference, unsurprisingly, looking at mental health in the context of church and how the church can better engage with and care for those in their communities and congregations with mental health problems, as well as look after our own mental health.

The theme of the day was ‘us not them’ and was exploring the fact that when we talk about people with mental health problems, we talk about ‘them’, failing to recognise or remember that we all have mental health, we all have to look after our mental health, just some of us have more trouble with this than others.

We need to talk about mental health as ‘our’ problem, in order to engage with the fact that it WILL impact on us all, whether personally or due to someone close to us.

However, the big mental health day was just one conference in a day that has been noted all over the world. If you look at the #WMHD hash tag there are SO many people talking about it. Whether it is their experiences, or training resources, or hopeful stories, or just an acknowledgment of the scale of the issue we are facing – people are talking about mental health.

This is such an encouragement, as, year by year, we are seeing more people engage with an issue that will effect everyone of us in our lifetimes. 1 in 4 people will have a mental health problem in any given year – which means we will all know someone who is living with and fighting mental ill health.

It is extraordinary to me that stigma still exists in association with something that is so prevalent, and yet it does. I was asked recently ‘what is the most shocking thing you have heard in relation to mental health?’ but in reality, the more appalling statements seem easier to dismiss as idiotic, the shocking thing is that people still believe (and it is alarmingly common) that people with depression are dangerous. Or that it is a sign of weakness or failing to be diagnosed with a mental health problem. It is shocking to me that people still feel the need to hide their mental health problems, because the negative responses are still a major problem and induce feelings of shame or fear in those already struggling too much.

This stigma though, is changing. Increasingly people are feeling brave and bold enough to speak out about their experience. Other people are listening and learning, wanting to know how they can support a loved one or colleague. Organisations are asking people to come in and talk to them about it, wanting to explore how they can care for their staff better. Today, I was one small part of a world wide conversation talking about mental health – and it is incredibly exciting.

So, as I sit here beginning to dose and my brain turning foggy, I feel encouraged by the changes and conversations happening across the world, today at least, I feel hopeful!

8 Comments

  • Katharine,

    You are an encouragement to me, you have been for a long time now, as I’m sure you are for many people. I see much in you that I have in me; your energy, enthusiasm, zeal, your tenacity, and the single minded stubbornness that one needs to get the tough things done, and noticed in life.
    But here’s the thing that concerns me. As people come out of the darkest places, and confront their troubled past, and indeed the future and the here and now. People who are encouraged and empowered by the wave of change, those who are normal everyday workers; the bloke who drives the bus, the girl who works in the coffee shop, the security guard, the wagon driver, nurse, G.P, the warehouse supervisor, and so on.
    Whilst people are encouraged toward change of thought and attitude at one end of life, what about those at the other? Those who have the power to say “That’s fine Mrs Smith, but you are no longer suitable to remain in our organisation, sorry, but we have to let you go”. That is to too often the reality of stepping out into the real world, with a very real affliction, to those in society who need educating.
    There are some situations in life that need tackling from both ends at once; an attempt to come at this from one side would only serve to rock the whole boat. Are you sitting down with business leaders, company executives and directors? Most importantly with politicians?
    My main concern is that of the individuals livelihood, their jobs and careers, in a ruthless climate at present. Forgive me, I venture too close to political commentary, and I vow not to go there, as this subject isn’t political. However, I’m sure you understand where I’m coming from with this. I don’t want to see individuals loosing everything at the hands of the unscrupulous. That’s the reality that holds us back, that’s the whirlwind we face if we voice our condition out loud.
    Forgive me once again Katharine, that’s been bubbling beneath my surface for a while. I don’t mean to be negative, just realistic.

    God protect you, and His Holy Spirit watch over you and Mike, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    With all my love
    Gary

    • Hi Gary, I normally speak about the tougher side of life with depression. As you say we need to speak about both. That means recognising the change. That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do still, and I do talk about the stigma still around in this blog. But if we don’t acknowledge the change that has happened and only see the tougher side of things life will get very bleak. Just because something isn’t finished doesn’t mean there isn’t improvement, and just because there is improvement doesn’t mean we stop working for more.

  • Katharine,

    You and the organisations that you are linked/associated to do the most sterling work. It wasn’t my intention to bring into question anything you work or strive for. It was to raise the issue of, what follows on from the first initial giant step of saying “Look, my mental health might not be what it ought to be” to let’s say ones G.P, then soon after to the company Ocupational Health. The floodgates open, and the genie cannot be put back into the bottle.
    Couple that with an overzealous H.R and management, and you find yourself unemployed. I apologise if what I wrote earlier appeared scathing towards you in any way, it wasn’t, and I truly hope you realise that. But I’ve seen this oh too often, I’m just pointing out why people are forced to remain silent in their affliction.
    You and Mike are continually in my prayers.

    Yours in Christ Jesus
    Gary

    • Hi Gary

      I have just had to leave my job due to their attitude towards my mental health. This was after working in that setting for nearly 13 years. Restructuring, change of management triggered my nervous breakdown. It has been a horrific experience.

      • Claystories,

        Forgive me, I’ve only just noticed your post to me.
        Your experience is all to common place, but it will be no less devastating to you knowing this cold fact. I’m sure when I say this, I say it for all here, that our prayers are with you.
        If there’s anything I can do, shout out. Your not alone, the numbers of those you share your journey with are many.
        Blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

        Gary

  • really glad you feel hopeful at the end of the conference – praying you can hold onto that in the coming days, not easy. It is hard to stay hopeful (esp when it seems everything in you is wired to feel the opposite), Gary you’re right that many people don’t feel they can speak out & so suffer in silence. I do feel that the more everyday people talk to each other about our mental health – good & bad – the more normal it will become, and I dare to hope that the ripple effects of that will go beyond everyday people to those with power in big organisations & the policy makers. It takes time.
    Thank you for being one of the honest voices Katherine. Its encouraging for me to read what you blog… I am new to blogging but also come to it hoping that honesty and vulnerability will encourage and help to bring about changed perceptions.

  • Katharine and Rev C. Porter,

    I feel like I have taken up far too much space in your reply section as it is, so I will be as brief as I can, while giving the respect you both deserve.
    Forgive me if I have caused any unrest. if I am right, there’s no one more than me who wishes he was wrong. I have chosen my words and the forum to say them in very badly, as well as abysmal timing.
    I’ve lived with this illness/ affliction/ poor health for as long as I can remember, it is largely through hope, grace and love that I’m still here.

    In love
    Gary

  • How embarrassing that that conference in Hammersmith passed us by on World Mental Health Day because that’s (that’s 3 ‘thats’, 4 now in my first sentence !) exactly what the little charity I chair does – http://www.beingalongside.org.uk – churchy mental health thingies.

    You know that statistic whereby 1 in 4 people will have …
    I always say it’s actually nearer 1 in 1.

    The more the educated, important and famous people fess up to their own issues the less will become the stigma for the rest of us. But goodness me, it does seem slow progress doesn’t it ?

    My own excuse for doing zippo on the 10th was due to the fact that I was sunning myself on the beach at Aqaba, Jordan. Very tough arena this charity lark …

    Katherine, God bless you.
    All power to your elbow and the rest of you,

    Jamie

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