Normalizing Mental Health Discussions
I feel a growing responsibility to normalize mental health discussions outside of dedicated platforms, such as this blog. For people like my brother who live with chronic mental illness to exist stigma-free, we need to demystify the topic of mental illness in the wider community.
Stop with the Secrecy to Normalize Mental Health Discussions
My brother has no issue with discussing his mental illness, so neither do I. When speaking to work colleagues and friends, I make no bones about the ways that my brother's mental illness affects our day-to-day lives. I don't mean I sit at the lunch table at work crying about my brother being sick, I just mean I don't avoid the topic when it naturally comes up.
I will mention the fact that my brother has gastrointestinal issues due to his medications, and I'll ask for tips about where I can buy foods that suit him when he visits. I will be open about the fact that I schedule family events at strange times because of his sleep pattern. I won't hide the fact that oftentimes events are canceled at the last minute due to fluctuations in his symptoms. Sometimes this leads to curiosity, sometimes this leads to awkward silence, sometimes it leads to nothing strange at all.
Sit with the Awkwardness to Normalize Mental Health Discussions
If someone has an awkward reaction to me talking about my brother's mental illness, that's okay. It might be the first time they've ever heard something like this being talked about openly -- in Irish society, we really aren't great at this.
I've learned to see the awkwardness as a good thing. There's always a discomfort the first time you experience something, and I'm thick-skinned enough at this point to soak up that discomfort. Perhaps the awkward person in question will feel less strange the next time the topic of mental illness is broached. Perhaps if their loved one develops a mental illness, they won't feel so frightened because they'll know other people have been through it too.
Identify Yourself as an Ally
In broaching the subject of mental illness during everyday conversation, you're identifying yourself as an ally to those around you. You never know when this might become important -- I've made a video which I'll link below going into more detail on this.
How do you feel about normalizing mental health discussions? Is it awkward to talk about, or does it feel natural to you? Leave a comment below.
Spendlove, N. (2021, May 24). Normalizing Mental Health Discussions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2021/5/normalizing-mental-health-discussions