Mental health awareness has come on in leaps and bounds recently but, for many, that’s still all it is: an awareness. We need to convert that into an understanding.
Fortunately, we are more aware of mental health issues today, certainly compared to how it was when I was growing up. Prior to facing up to my own issues I considered that I had a basic appreciation of what having a mental illness meant. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Learning about the condition I live with has entailed finding out about mental health issues more generally. I have been shocked at how little I really knew about even the more common illnesses like depression and anxiety, let alone more serious ones. I have also had to realise that I am not without my prejudices.
I’m sure greater understanding will come from mental health being discussed more openly. If we can get to a place of better understanding then this in turn will, I hope, lead to greater empathy. Given that most of us will be touched by mental illness at some point in our lives more empathy can only be a good thing.
It doesn’t matter if it is for those who have a diagnosable illness or are simply experiencing the day to day stress of life, I hope that my own experience has increased my empathy for others.