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In the spirit of talking openly and comfortably about mind health matters this article is written to invite you to think differently about mind health matters. It’s written for those who know about mental illness or mood disorders from a first-hand experience; those who know they work, live or love someone with a first-hand experience; and for those who are, what I will call, “bystanders”.
So, what’s a bystander? Bystanders are those of you who may know that mental illness exists but it’s ‘out there somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away’; or a bystander may not know about the things that can go wrong with brain wiring and attribute behaviours in others they don’t understand as quirks or weirdness. A bystander may think they know what mental illness looks, sounds or feels like, they may not. They may have a story that it’s safer to keep their distance, and not get involved; they may not. A bystander may be scared of having to deal with a person with a mental illness or mood disorder because they’re “crazy”; or not. They may simply be unaware of more effective ways of making a difference, reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and talking openly and comfortably about mind health matters.
As a person with experience of mind health issues, an ‘experiencer’, I speak up about my personal experiences. This is my choice and it is not for everyone, and that’s OK. If you have first-hand experience my invitation to you is that you speak about mind health matters when it is appropriate or when the topic is raised, from your informed perspective, with or without self-disclosure. It’s about getting the conversations happening. Awareness is a prerequisite for people to see how they have responded to mental illness in the past. It provides new and different choices for the future.
Same deal for the ‘carers’ who live with and/or love an ‘experiencer’ or ‘connecteds’ who know you work, live near someone with a first-hand experience. My invitation to you is that you also talk about mind health matters when it is appropriate or when the topic is raised. Do so from your informed perspective as a ‘connecteds’ or ‘carers’, with or without disclosure, as appropriate. The more frequently that ‘experiencers’ and ‘carers’ or ‘connecteds’ speak openly and comfortably about what they know the faster awareness will spread and the less scared those not in the know or the new to the knowing will be. It provides better networks of support for the future.
‘Experiencers’ and ‘Carers’ or ‘Connecteds’ Talking About Mind Health Matters…
when you do take the step to speak openly , it often takes a great deal of courage. For the ‘carers’ and ‘connecteds’ out there here are a few tips for talking openly and comfortably about mind health matters:
Keep it real and as positive as possible. The aim is not to scare people; it’s to help them become more aware of the broad range of experiences and challenges that people with mind health issues, their ‘connecteds’ and their ‘carers’. When you talk about a symptom or difficult experience also talk about what you learnt from that experience… even if it’s to make sure it never happens again.
Talk about the important things for you. Based on your experiences what were the important things to make sure you took care of or that you did regularly. You can talk about it from first-hand experience… “When I was in the depths of depression, it was really important that I went out for a walk every day.” If you want to talk about it from a detached point of view… “I know for a friend of mine, taking care of his wife who experiences bipolar, he became very aware of what manic symptoms to watch out for. That way he could intervene before things got out of hand.”
Let others know support is out there… you just have to know where to look. Talk about the online resources you know about… “I recently heard about a Radio Show “But I Feel Good” that every week puts a resource up on their Facebook page to support better mind health.” Talk about books that you know about… “The Black Dog Institute has a great range of books about all sorts of mind health matters from teenagers, through bipolar to oldies. I think you can I ask for them at your local library. These books tell you about other people’s experiences.” Talk about the Better Outcomes For Mental Health program that’s accessible through GPs or the great psychiatrist or psychologist you've used or heard about.
So I've talked about the ‘experiencers’, the ‘carers’ and the ‘connecteds’; it’s time to make an invitation to the ‘bystanders’. My invitation to you is simple. Find one thing that you can do to help yourself become better educated about mind health matters. Here are some suggestions.
- google ‘mental illness’ and see what show up
- when you’ve googled ‘mental illness’ pick a term you want to know more about and google that
- ask people you know what they know about mental illness and mind health matters – let them know you are interested in getting better educated on the topic
- google “what can I do to find out about mind health”… you’ll get about 3,130,000,000 results (0.32 seconds)
- check out the Black Dog Institute website
- check out the pwc report commissioned by Beyond Blue at their Heads Up website
I’d love to hear how you go and what your learn…
If you work for an organisation that has a regular newsletter that goes out to staff and you think these articles would be appropriate to replicate please let me know… I’m more than happy to do anything which raises awareness about mind health matters. And if people need a financial incentive, current research by Beyond Blue and PwC show that a minimum ROI of 2.13 for every dollar spent occurs when working towards mentally healthy workplaces.
Because your Mind Health Matters…