Recently it was World Mental Health Day, the day each year which is designated to raise the profile of mental health and encourage a conversation. As always, the day was rich in words, of honesty, of the bleak truth about how it is to be mentally unwell, and of pledges to listen and offer support. And then, as every year, the day was over. So now what. Are we waiting for next year to roll around so we can do the same again, and again, whilst in between nothing much changes under the suffocating skies of autumn that are sucked down into winter? Or are we going to make every day world mental health day, days in which we can talk about our mental health? Which may mean a shift in culture that lasts, a commitment to talk about how we feel each day, to remind one another each day that it’s ok not to be ok, that help is out there, and that each of us is vulnerable sometimes. But this may feel like a burden at times, because honesty can make us feel vulnerable and this vulnerability, this peeling off layers that may be thick and fossilised can be painful. So, we need to make it a habit, speak the truth of how we are and who we are as a matter of course, flexing our emotional muscles so they don’t twinge so much, loosening our lips to free our words. Because this is how new habits are built, by repetition, by practise, so that the alien becomes usual, and cultures of silence are bathed with noise. We are uniquely placed as the people of God to add to this noise, to carry hope and restoration for one another when we are with those who are unable to do so for themselves. Here’s what we can do over the coming year:
Ask one another how we are, and expect an honest reply!
Model realistic ways of coping with life’s struggles.
Take time to rest.
Remember that God is with you.
So, let’s talk over the coming weeks, long and loud, holding on to the truth that no matter our circumstance nothing lasts forever and change will come. Let’s talk of our fears, and weaknesses, and struggles, and let’s listen without judgement, holding those fears before God together, helping each other to hold them in the light. And next year, on World Mental Health Day, we can be those who are used to talking, and instead of being at the beginning of a conversation we’ll be deeply within it, knowing and hearing each other, unafraid of the noise.