Today we are all asked to have a 5 minute conversation about mental health. It's a campaign to make everyone more aware of mental illness.
It got me thinking about people in my own circle who have or have had mental illness. I was surprised how many people there are and the variety of difficulties they have encountered: clinical depression, anorexia, suicidal thoughts, self harm, psychosis, dementia. It seems like a lot and I don't think my circle of friends, relatives and acquaintances are unusual.
Fortunately all have recovered or at least coped through the care of family and friends, clinical care and the passage of time. But I don't remember it being easy for any of them to talk about it either at the time or since.
Why is there a barrier to discussing mental health? Is it stigma, fear or shame? Feelings that would be absent for many (but not all) physical health conditions.
The Children North East 'BU' mental health and wellbeing project has produced this short video 'Beneath the Mask' which has a simple message about the stigma of mental illness - always do the friendliest thing. The video makes clear that does not have to be talking, it can be as simple as being attentive and respectful.