YEP Says: Why we need to open up about mental illness

How often, when we ask someone how they are, do we really want to know the answer?

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 9th October 2016, 7:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 6:27 pm
Yorkshire Evening Post editor Nicola Furbisher.
Yorkshire Evening Post editor Nicola Furbisher.

How often, when you’re asked that question yourself, do you muster a smile and the words ‘fine thanks’ even though you’re feeling anything but okay?

Despite the that fact our society is supposed to be more open, caring and sharing than ever, many of us are, in fact, putting on an act for the rest of the world.

The Yorkshire Evening Post’s #SpeakYourMind campaign is important – and necessary – because when it comes to mental illness, society is still afraid.

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Many of us shy away from or avoid someone experiencing a mental health problem. And yet it’s impossible to contemplate this same sort of response in other health contexts: seeing someone slip and fall while crossing a busy street, for instance, or seeing someone have a heart attack or faint and passing by without stopping to help or make sure they’re alright. This same avoidance instinct also prevents many families whose lives have been impacted by it from talking about it, as if it were shameful or embarrassing.

Here’s the reality: the less we talk about mental illness, the more “other” it becomes. And the less we’re able or willing to help those in the midst of it, the more our fear increases.

How many employees hide their illness from sight for fear of it damaging their job prospects?

Let Leeds, its citizens, its businesses, its communities at large, be the first to join forces to banish the stigma. Let those who are suffering know they will be supported and cared for. Let employers be encouraged to understand the signs of someone in distress and show they are not only sympathetic but also supportive.

All of us will be affected by mental illness in some way or form, either through suffering ourselves or watching a family member suffer.

And people with mental health problems say that the social stigma attached to mental ill health can make their difficulties worse and make it harder to recover. This cannot be allowed to continue.

We appreciate the media in all its forms has had a role to play over the decades in reinforcing the damaging stigmas around mental health.

And that’s why today, through #SpeakYourMind, we want to become part of the solution, instead of adding to the problem.