“Hey sorry I can’t make it today. I’m down with the flu”

“I hurt my back”

“I have an appointment”

“My parents need help”

“I have food poisoning”

What I really mean to say is: “Hey, sorry I can’t make it today. I’m having a bad mental health day”

One day, I will be out with my family and friends having a great ol’ time, laughing and feeling incredibly alive. The next morning, I’ll find myself unable to move, feeling helpless and incapable of leaving the safety net of blankets in my bed. It can go on for hours, days, sometimes even weeks or months.

My hair is unwashed, my body weak because I can’t find a good enough reason to get up and eat something.  The thought of going into work, finishing my assignments or even just facing another human being can be incredibly daunting at times. My blankets that shelter me begin to hold me down, and I’m thrown into the dark spiral of depression, once again.

There’s no real inconvenience in my life – so why is my mind telling me everything’s gone to shit?

The simple answer is: I’m just wired that way. And that’s okay.

Statistics have found that one in five Australians aged between 16-85 have experienced some sort of mental illness in any year. That’s 20% of of the population. Why then, when mental health issues are so common among us, is it so difficult to be upfront when we’re not alright?

The still existing stigma of mental illness often stems from a lack of understanding and the labels society often attaches to it. Say these words out loud: Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, OCD, PTSD – now say it again. They’re not bad words, there’s no need to whisper them under your breath. You don’t need to look at me with sympathetic eyes when I tell you I take medication to combat the struggle in my mind.

Living with a mental health issue isn’t easy but we can uncomplicate things by starting a conversation.

 

Here’s how you can help end the stigma:

 

Be Open

Talking openly about mental health, without the hushed voices, is the best way to be the difference. Honesty is a beautiful thing and mental health issues affect more people than you might know. So let’s talk.

Read, Listen, Learn

Educating yourself and others on mental health disorders can help challenge preconceived thoughts about them, you might learn something you didn’t know before and eliminate any misconceptions you might have.

Be Conscious

While having an open and honest conversation is important, it’s equally crucial to be mindful of the way you might approach the topic. Something we often forget about is our language and how we use certain words in every day talk. Try to avoid using mental health disorders as negative adjectives – you know what I’m talking about.

Be Empathetic

Now this is an imperative point. If someone you know is dealing with mental health issues, try and understand them but without putting their illness at the forefront. Mental health may make up a majority of someone’s life, but it absolutely doesn’t define them.

Just Be A Decent Human Being

This might be an obvious one, but it can’t be said enough. There’s enough crap going on in the world and clogging up our lives already, so we should do our part and not add fuel to the fire. Smile at a stranger (in a non-creepy way), hold the door open for someone, ask someone how they’re doing. Be a mate.

Most importantly, if you or someone you know is struggling with the above mentioned, you can get help from any of the below:

Lifeline
13 11 14

Headspace
1800 650 890

Beyond Blue
1300 22 4636

Kids Help Line
1800 55 1800