It’s time to talk about mental illness. It’s time to end the stigma, to admit our struggles and declare ‘I’m not ashamed’.
For those of us that have suffered mental ill health we are fortunate to live in an age of growing awareness, viral social media campaigns and positive stories of individuals with mental illness; in past generations we would have faced ridicule, institutionalisation or worse.
In fact, as more and more people speak out about their struggles – from Coronation Street’s Bev Callard to boxer Frank Bruno, from comedian Ruby Wax to model Cara Delvingne – nowadays if you’ve suffered with mental illness it’s possible to feel part of quite an exclusive club.
Never mind Vinnie Jones’s Wimbledon of the 1980s, this is the Crazy Gang to be in, and it’s us that’s taking on the world and winning. Hardly a day goes by where we don’t hear a story of somebody opening up candidly about their ‘year from hell’, or publicising their new book in the best-selling ‘misery memoir’ genre with the attendant series of newspaper serialisation exclusives.
It’s not difficult to understand why – stories of overcoming the odds, of facing life’s demons and defeating them, of victories in the most trying of circumstances, of great achievement born of great suffering – these stories are as old as time and speak to the inner struggles, both large and small, that we all face on our journeys through life. And in the UK in particular, we love it when the underdog triumphs.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I never hear the word ‘Brexit’ ever again it will be too soon. If I never see Nigel Farage on my television screen ever again it will be too soon. If I never read another Daily Mail headline about AIDS-ridden EU migrant rapists claiming all of our benefits (or did I just imagine that one?) ever again, it will be too soon.
The UK faces its biggest political decision in a generation and every one of us can have our say – and I’m fucking sick of hearing about it. I’ll bet you are too.
Because no matter how important the subject, no matter what is at stake, there’s only so much of it we can take. In our fast-paced, 24 hour, news / opinion / speculation based, social media world, sometimes we get tired of being told what to think and do and we just want the noise to stop.
‘Mental illness kills every day.’
‘That’s terrible, now could I order a cappuccino please?’
Our interest and concern can give way to apathy as we face the ever growing demands made of us in our own lives whilst all around us white noise hisses the struggles of others. And if we feel we are being force-fed mental illness stories often enough apathy can turn to cynicism, with questions about whether the appeal of being in this popular and cool new mental illness club is actually a PR ploy to create interest in a new film, album or book; or, away from the shimmering glare of celebrity, whether it gives substance and depth to otherwise inconsequential lives.
When I started writing it wasn’t with the intent of writing about mental health; no, I intended to bore you all with woe-is-me stories of divorce and heartbreak, dating and giving up on dating. But it very quickly became apparent to me that I needed to write about it. If my writing was to be honest then I couldn’t not talk about it as it has had such a significant impact upon my life, how I view my life now and how I try to deal with the challenges I face.
And yes, I am conscious of adding to what some may perceive to be noise around mental health, of ramming it down people’s throats, of pushing it in front of their faces via another new post update on Facebook.
‘Bloody hell, Matty’s bangin’ on about his depression again.’
But here’s why I do it – this club has more than enough people in it already. If I can stop anybody from joining it then what I say is worthwhile. If just one person can take these words and hang onto them, can use them to light their way and help them to escape their cave (https://lovelaughtertruthblog.com/2016/06/08/the-cave/), then it really doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.
In reality the mental illness club really isn’t very exclusive – anybody can come in. Your friends, your colleagues, even your children – it doesn’t turn away under 18s – any one of them could find themselves gaining membership. And some of them may not be able to leave.
I don’t want that, so I will keep talking. And if you would like to listen, thank you.
Talk Tonight – Oasis