Everyone has mental health in the same way that everyone has physical health. Sometimes, our physical health is good. Sometimes, we notice slight aches and pains, a pinched nerve, a small cut, a random bruise. At times, we may have more significant physical issues, following an accident or the diagnoses of an illness. Much of the time we can share our physical issues freely with others, “My back is killing me this week” “I have no idea where this bruise came from” “I have a splitting headache; do you have any paracetamol?”.
Why is it then that we can’t talk about our mental health in the same way?
Having poor mental health isn’t a choice. People don’t decide to be anxious or depressed. No one ever says “I’ve decided to feel randomly worried today.” But a lot of people have felt randomly worried. Or sad. Or significantly depressed. Sometimes we can identify why and sometimes we just can’t. The nature of the brain, with its various chemicals and complex processes sometimes doesn’t work the way we’d like it to, just like the rest of our bodies.
Like physical health, mental health will impact us all in different ways. It can have a daily impact in our lives as a long-term condition, which may or may not be managed or understood. Mental health can also strike as an urgent crisis, following a particular event or trauma that places significant urgent pressure on our brain's ability to function. But for much of the time, it will simply exist, floating like a continuum between good, not so good and much worse, just like our physical health.
My key message is that everyone’s mental health journey is unique. There are no simple or miracle cures. There is no “one size fits all approach”. Being active in managing your mental health will not always be an easy journey and often won’t make issues disappear overnight. But by being a little more open, by acknowledging your physical and mental health in similar ways, and by not hesitating to seek counselling help if necessary, it is my hope that we can all start to make a difference beyond the impact we directly feel.