One of the questions we regularly hear as therapists working with young people is ‘am I normal?’ Sometimes the question is posed directly and other times it is perhaps more implicit in what is not said but in my experience of working therapeutically it is never very far away.
Many children and young people (and let’s be honest adults too) can be crippled with feelings of insecurity around what other people think. When it comes to our mental health this question can loom large and might put people off from accessing support. It is as if taking care of our mental health is something to feel ashamed of – people often make a comparison with one’s physical health; ‘well you wouldn’t feel embarrassed about getting support for a broken bone etc so why should it be a problem to access therapeutic support’ but so very often for so many people, it is. Here at Off Centre we don’t think it should be that way.
As our campaign this month attempts to highlight, mental health; it’s a people thing #itsapeoplething. After all, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year*. Mental health does not discriminate, to use the physical health analogy myself; we all have a relationship with our physical health and likewise we all have a relationship with our mental health. So why is our mental health and the efforts we might make to look after it a cause for discrimination or stigma? The portrayal of mental health issues in the news, in TV soaps and dramas and on social media certainly don’t always help, especially when people experiencing mental health difficulties are described negatively or their actions sensationalised for the sake of a good headline. We need to start having real conversations about mental health and it is really refreshing to see artists like Kid Cudi and Professor Green publicly talking about how mental health issues have affected their lives.
We all have a responsibility to engage in this debate – the more positive stories we hear about accessing support and conversations we have with family and friends about our own experiences will go some way to normalising the culture around accessing mental health support. Here at Off Centre we see accessing support as a sign of strength and consider the young people we work with as some of the most courageous and committed young people you’ll meet. The more we are able to make the connection that in order to live healthier, happier, more fulfilling and authentic lives we need to understand ourselves better and that this reaps rewards not only for ourselves but also for the people around us and the hopes and expectations we have for our future. That doesn’t sound like something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about to me.
Off Centre Counsellor