Connection is the key ingredient necessary for becoming or staying mentally well. It’s one of the biggest buffers against suicidal thinking, and being meaningfully connected with someone (and no, Snapchat streaks don’t count here!) reduces depression and anxiety symptoms and builds peoples resilience in the face of future stress.
One of the things that drives disconnection when it comes to mental ill health is stigma. Stigma is often driven by misunderstanding or fear, and with misunderstanding and fear there is often judgement.
One out of every four young people aged 12-25 will find themselves struggling with mental health in the course of a typical year. Yet it continues to be something that people feel inhibited to talk about with family and friends and feel that there is judgement associated with seeking professional support.
There is still some idea that if you’re struggling with mental health, you’re in the minority and that nobody will understand or empathise with what’s going on for you. The one in four statistics suggests that simply isn’t the case!
The idea still persists that mental ill health is associated with weakness or is some indicator that there is something wrong with you. Again this is an oversimplication and simply not true.
Something that I have come to see very strongly, and to have great respect for, is that struggling with mental health is for most a consequence of people trying their very best in the face of some significant challenges.
I wanted to highlight the ideas of stigma and connection because they are intrinsically linked.
If we are able to accept that to be struggling with mental health means you are actually a part of quarter of the population, then we can break through some of the fear and isolation associated with experiencing a mental health problem, can help build empathy for people’s circumstances, can reduce judgement, can build connection and can help those who are struggling to speak up, seek help, and know that they will be met with kindness, empathy, connection and understanding.