The value of talking

There is a lie that society tells us. There is increasing awareness of this lie, and growing numbers of people speaking out to put an end to it. The problem is, it is so embedded in our society that whilst we might understand the theory, when we are impacted personally the lie suddenly seems so much more believable.

That lie is that mental illness is shameful, weak and something to hide. That those we love, when they realise what we are – what we have – will question our character and our strength, will doubt our ability to function ‘normally’ and will undoubtedly rethink their relationship with us.

This lie is corrosive and alarmingly prevalent. All of us will know someone with poor mental health – whether we are aware of that fact or not – and many of us will have supported and loved them regardless. However, when we get hit by poor mental health ourselves, we start to believe the lie. We know the theory, its nothing to be ashamed of, it can happen to anyone, our friends and family will still love us – and yet the lie still sinks itself into our mind.

This is part of the illness, it is the lie bought about by a mind that is suddenly our enemy and it is a lie that kills.

Today is time to talk day. A day that encourages us to talk about mental health with friends, family and colleagues. This is not something restricted to those with poor mental health – we all have mental health that needs care.

There is something incredibly liberating about talking about mental ill health with someone and finding that they are not going to walk away. If we don’t talk about it, we keep this lie building and growing, it is fed by our silence.

It doesn’t only help us individually though, I have found that when I speak about my own struggle with depression and anxiety others start speaking about theirs. There is encouragement in hearing others talking about it as an illness, not a weakness or failing. We find out we are not alone, not pathetic, not broken and not abandoned. Talking helps everyone involved in the conversation to have a better understanding of the nature and dangers of silence, it helps us love each other better and it helps us recognise the enormity of the lie we have believed.

If you get a chance today (or any day) talk about mental health. There will be someone you know who is living with a mental health problem in silence out of shame and fear. Your starting that conversation could liberate them and potentially aid them in not sinking further into the darkness.

3 Comments

  • Katharine hello,

    Just back from 12 days in Jordan, 5 without my luggage but hey ho. Managed to write the first 17,000 words of my book for SPCK provisionally entitled, ‘ The least of mine. Pastoral Care in Mental Health ‘. As in …” what you do for the least of mine you do for me”.
    Apparently on Sky TV this morning someone fessed up to having problems which surprised the rest of the panel but eventually made for good TV.
    As always you are right – there remains massive stigma but I am not weak nor are you.
    More power to our elbows,

    Jamie

  • Katharine,

    A very sobering piece of writing, and as ever very challenging. There is hope for those in silence and understanding for those with sound mental health. Encouragement for all.

    Gary

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