On the 10th of October, we celebrate World Mental Health Day. Regardless of spreading awareness of the importance of mental health, there is undoubtedly a certain stigma around it. Still, some might ignore this problem, not due to ignorance but simply due to lack of knowledge of where to start. The abundance of university work always comes with a certain level of isolation from your friends and relatives; this issue escalated further this year, when isolation became quite literal and the dystopian vision of online life became a reality. Thus, the Instagram page @mentalhealthedinburgh was created, to share local resources and create an inclusive community to help people make their first steps on the path to better mental health.
So far, @mentalhealthedinburgh have posted information about Nightline and TRC therapy sessions. They also created a collaborative Google Doc with a list of helpful resources. Still, however, it seems to be just the start of a long journey. The page founder, Ellie Jeans, sees the page as a constant work in progress but with an overwhelming amount of possibilities out there, a comprehensive list of options seems a better starting point for people in a really dark place.
When asked about the main motivation behind such a page, Ellie gave several reasons. It came from her own personal struggles with mental health, the current dissociative nature of the pandemic and the recent spike in suicides. All those factors triggered the need to break the stigma. As the first step of reaching out for help is harder than it seems, the community that makes it smoother seemed like the right thing to do.
The response to this initiative has been a positive one so far, but as Ellie says, it is rather a bittersweet story. On the one hand, it is extremely motivating seeing people engage with the community, yet still, it also shows the immense scope of this problem among students. Nonetheless, the engagement is definitely needed. The more people get involved, the more people can receive the actual help they need. Ellie emphasised also the unique possibility to create a collaborative environment with a possibility to drop a DM with any issues, questions or suggestions.
The conversations about mental health are undoubtedly difficult but the page creates a friendly atmosphere to do so. Ellie enthusiastically says she wants to be there to help people make their first steps towards a better mental health. She also plans on prompting the dialogue with the university on their ways of handling mental health, mostly with the relation to the current online classes being hard on the majority of students.
Even with growing awareness and enormous efforts in the media, the stigma still remains with mental and physical health not getting equal attention. Ellie breaks it down into the narrow image of “success” and “productiveness” in the society and categorises any symptoms of mental illness as “failure”. The change appeared to be on its way but it is still a work in progress; thus, it is crucial to spread awareness through the media – to cause a shift in the narrative towards a more inclusive dialogue regarding mental health.
Just talking about mental issues might be challenging. Ellie recognizes how hard it can be to find the right words to describe how you feel, but sweeping things under the carpet is not the right approach either. The advice she gives is to reach out to the people that can be trusted, and even if the process might be long and tiresome, it is definitely worth it.
In the end, it all comes down to conversations, difficult as they can be. This year, more than ever, it is important to check on your loved ones, to see if they are showing signs of mental illness or just to make sure they are okay. It is also crucial to realise that there is no shame in admitting you are not okay. Ultimately, the more people can open up about this, the more normalised the conversation about mental health will be – and it will receive the attention it requires.
Image credit: United Nations via Unsplash.