Whilst this day is traditionally about raising awareness of modern slavery, I wanted to use this opportunity to draw your attention towards what freedom means for you, in the context of mental health.
Freedom can be defined as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants“. However, the ability to use respectful and considerate language, whilst still allowing freedom of expression is a persistent concern. Particularly when we speak and write about mental health. Societal and perceived stigmatisation of mental health continues to discourage individuals from seeking help, or talking about their own experiences. Therefore, the words that we use to talk about mental health, are important.
Stigma and Mental Health
Statistically, 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem (not to mention all those individuals who may not have been diagnosed). Despite this number however, there are still many attitudes and beliefs within societies that regard symptoms associated with mental health problems, as uncomfortable and frightening. As a result, these ill-advised negative beliefs, are often the root of discrimination towards individuals with mental health problems. Particularly, towards those who are brave enough to speak out and share their story. In fact, Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems, say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives.
So, today if you can find the courage, I would like to ask you to speak out about mental health and tell your own story. It is your right to have a voice, and to be heard, without fear of oppression. Through the knowledge gained from individuals speaking out about their experiences associated with mental health, whether personal or that of friend, others will learn that mental health problems are common and can happen to any of us. Oh, and remember, most individuals who experience a problem with their mental health, fully recover, or are able to live with and manage them, if they receive professional, family/peer and positive support.
Finally, I would like to leave you with this inspirational quote from a respected friend, and colleague of mine:
“Freedom, is my motivation and courage to speak my truth and own my story” Katherine Leenhouts, MSW.
What does freedom mean to you? Share your comments or your stories below.