Talking about mental health

19 07 2012

Everybody’s talking about mental health at the moment. One in four people will experience mental health problems at some point in their life, yet there is still a strong stigma attached to admitting to having mental health issues. 

Last month, in a bid to break the cycle of silence surrounding mental health, four MPs stood up in the House of Commons to discuss their own experiences to further the debate on tackling prejudices against those with mental health problems. And next week sees the start of a Channel 4 season of programmes called 4 Goes Mad, which aims to challenge discrimination and the mental health stigma.

The campaign Time To Change – which collaborated with Channel 4 on 4 Goes Mad – is led by leading mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and aims to raise awareness by getting as many people talking about their  mental health experiences as possible. (You can sign up to the Time to Change pledge to talk campaign here.)

On horsesmouth our environment is anonymous, supportive and safe, which allows people to open up and disclose honestly. Depression and mental illness are therefore huge topics: just searching under ‘depression’ brings up 2,000 relevant mentor profiles.

We see people flourish after finding the support they need, often then feeling encouraged to go on and help others. In March this year, one mentee came to horsesmouth in search of support, writing, ‘I’ve been struggling with mental illness pretty much my whole life. I’ve been misdiagnosed for years. I’m looking for a mentor that I can talk to and can understand where I am coming from.

She formed several close mentoring relationships and last month signed up to be a mentor herself, sending supportive messages to other users and saying, ‘Horsesmouth has helped me tremendously. It’s nice to know you have people that you can talk to.’

Every week we have new mentors who are dealing with mental illness sign up, knowing how vital it is to offer others the opportunity to talk. For instance, h0th3ad, who signed up last month and wants to mentor on depression:

I have been through it and I know how important it is to have someone listen to you and support you. It was the worst years of my life but it’s at the back of my mind if not away from it. I believe everyone suffers from it some time in life but some suffer more than others. I am proof you can change things around with the right support, I want to be that support and the reason to change a person’s life positively.’

Other long-established mentors who have been through the mill of mental illness know how the stigma attached to mental illness can increase the sense of isolation. Mentor jennzenith, 32, says:

Although the stigma of poor mental health is supposedly decreasing, I am aware that those who find themselves living with depression, or caring for someone with depression, can often feel alone. I have experienced both sides of this illness and would love the opportunity to use my experiences to help others.’

Through the simple act of conversation and sharing, the weight of mental health and depression is partly lifted. Follow the conversations on Twitter under #4goesmad #mentalhealthdebate #timetochange. If you need advice and support on dealing with mental health issues, search for a mentor here.

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