JKG | jkgphotography.co.uk
Location: Tooting, London
So I guess I've wanted to unpack this for a while. It's been something I often think about and something I am often asked during interviews and panel discussions etc.
I've been pretty vocal about my poor mental health in the past, but as of late, I concentrate a lot more on trauma and healing as that's where I am at in my life right now.
Its Mental Health Awareness Week and I wanted to be frank with my thoughts and opinions on how we move forward as a society to improve our mental health. I read an article somewhere a few days ago that was basically saying mental health issues in under 11's is on the rise which is just heart breaking. I first encountered the magnitude of MH issues in kids whilst working at a residential children's home. A lot of behaviours displayed by 'naughty' children or children who 'act outside of the norm', can sometimes be down to poor MH, manifested from trauma. It's sad.
Anyway. I guess all the conversations around MH has sparked me off to finally talk about the fact that awareness weeks are pretty pointless - without action, money and resources.
Hear me out.
Most of us are aware of the mental health crisis we are experiencing not just in the UK, but worldwide too. I 100% believe MH awareness weeks encourage people to be open and honest about the things they are or have been through, and it also creates a community of people literally saying 'you are not alone'. That is important and valid. Awareness of any kind sheds light on the scale of the problem, as well as aiming to make the taboo not so taboo. Nothing but good can come from these sorts of conversations, it can be comforting, motivating and inspiring.
But what do we do after these awareness weeks? Do we continue on with an open mind and heart in our conversations about mental health? I don't think as a society we always do. And that's a real problem. These awareness weeks can be somewhat short-lived and when they pass, the sense of togetherness also passes too. You will have someone ridicule another for the way they look and in the same breath tweet #mentalhealthawarenessweek.
I obviously don't want to come across as a Negative Nancy but I think this is something we all need to talk about.
Because although a # can be empowering and a way to create a social community, they don't help to 'fix' (I say this word lightly because we don't need to be fixed exactly.. we need to heal) the issue or allow people who desperately need help, to gain access and get onto the road of recovery.
CAMHS - which is the leading free mental health service in the UK for under 18s, at times has a 6 month waiting list. GP's in this country tell people with anorexia to lose more weight before they are offered substantial help. Male suicide has increased dramatically due to toxic masculinity, poor services and a constant disregard overall for men and their emotions. Oh and black people are often dehumanised for feeling anything at all, therefore they rarely receive any help for their mental health.
Are awareness weeks changing this? I'm not so sure.
One of the two main reasons our mental health as a society is still deteriorating is lack of money, lack of good resources and lack of access - especially for the marginalised. Our Tory government has cut MH funding without so much as a second thought to how this will affect people. The NHS is struggling to help people in crisis and people that need ways to heal because of overworked staff and a serious lack of support from those higher up the food chain. Private care is extortionate but so often it is the best and if I see one more MH event full of thin, white women I am going to scream.
(Breathe Grace, breatheeeeee).
So what can we do to create real change for everyone? Regardless of size, colour or class?
Firstly, we use the privilege some of us have to amplify other voices (celebrities, influences, the rich etc), create safe spaces to talk and we as a collective work on our own toxic behaviours to allow mental health to be spoken about openly outside of awareness weeks.
Start your movement, start your healing groups, start your gofundme, start writing to your MPs and start challenging and asking questions to health professionals and organisations that are supposed to help.
There are SO many incredible people - some of which I call my friends, who are working their asses off to create change. They are Queens, Kings and Heroes. But ultimately, we need the people at the top to start giving a shit.