When I woke up this morning, mental health was at the forefront of the news again following the announcement that the footballer Aaron Lennon had been detained under the mental health act following concerns about his wellbeing. There was a very different feeling about this story compared to the recent ones about Prince Harry having counselling following the death of his mum and the recent promotion of the Heads Together campaign around the London Marathon. Unlike the other articles, which have been met with lots of positivity, this one seems to have also brought out all the tired old mental health clichés that make people think twice about opening up about their problems.
Rather than focusing on the fact that there is a young man who has been struggling with his mental health and highlighting that we all need to be more open and honest about how we are feeling and what we can do if we are struggling, it just seems to have brought out the worst in people, which unfortunately in this social media age gets the comments more visibility than they deserve. Some of the typical comments were “what has he got to be depressed about?” “he’s got a dream job and lots of money, what is his problem?” “what would a millionaire have to get depressed about?” and the list goes on. All of which smacked of the ignorance and uneducated opinions of those who don’t have any understanding of such a complicated disease.
There has been so much progress made in recent years and months to bring mental illness out of the shadows but this just highlights how much work there is still to do. Depression, anxiety and mental illness do not discriminate. No matter what race, religion, social group, or class you are, it doesn’t matter as it can still affect you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best job in the world, have more money than you know what to do with, whether you are old or young, it will still get to you. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate unlike the people who sit behind their PCs and make comment on things they have no understanding of.
On the face of it do I have anything to be depressed about? I have an amazing wife, three wonderful kids, my own house, a good job, a car, my health, I live in a lovely village and have a couple of holidays each year. All of that sounds good but it doesn’t help when the dark cloud descends. All of that doesn’t have any bearing on the fact that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that needs medication to try and keep things on a level.
I sometimes despair at the world that my children are growing up in as it is all too easy for the ignorant to make comment on things they don’t understand but I do truly believe that there are enough good people out there who can make a difference. If we don’t stand up and fight this then things will be worse for our children and our children’s children but we are the only ones who can do anything about it. There are enough of us that care to be able to make a difference and break the stigma but we can only do it together as a united front. It is ok to not be ok and you don’t have to man up and put up with it. You should be able to express your feelings, you should be able to speak out and talk to each other so that we can all get through this together. I’ve recently seen some very brave people admit to those closest to them that they have a problem after suffering in silence for a long time. They can now start getting the help and support that they need which will hopefully see them find a way through this.
For Aaron Lennon, I hope that he can now get the help that he needs to get back to being himself. He is suffering from an illness that can be treated and I know that things can get better. It might be hard at times and no matter what you do it doesn’t stop being there but you can get through it. I just hope he gets the time and space that he needs with those who are important to him so that he can fully recover.
If you think that someone you know is struggling, then why not reach out to them as it might be just what they need to start a conversation. Given that 1 in 4 of us will at some point suffer from a mental illness, there is a good chance that someone you know will be struggling now so why don’t you let them know that it is ok to not be ok?
Together we can keep this conversation going and break the stigma.
Onwards and upwards