This Saturday, 10 October, is World Mental Health Day. The spotlight this year is on the theme of 'Dignity in Mental Health.' It's no doubt bloggers, organisations and individuals will come together to focus on this global celebration of mental health advocacy - sharing content that demonstrates their own experience and opinions of 'Dignity in Mental Health.'
Unsurprisingly the discussion has already begun with blogs posting information about how they plan to take part in raising awareness of mental health. It's really wonderful to see so many bloggers and individuals sharing their passion and honesty about mental illness. It's even more wonderful to see so many already beginning to share content about World Mental Health Day in advance. I think that the more we blog and share our honest experiences then the harder it is for stigma and negative attitudes to attack our own, and our universal, dignity. (By 'universal' here I mean how mental health is viewed in general).
As a mental health advocate myself and someone who lives with mental illness I've spent a lot of time recently thinking about what 'dignity' means to me - especially when it comes to mental health. Dignity oddly enough is a word that I have never affiliated with mental health matters; I don't mean this in a negative way - it just seems to be the case that I am often trying to articulate what it is that I am experiencing - rather than how I am being perceived. I have always thought myself incredibly lucky that I have such a wonderful support network, and I am yet to experience any discrimination or negative attitude toward my own mental health (hopefully I never will). However, since I began blogging about mental health matters I have become more aware of others' experiences - stigma is very much real. And though I hate to say it, it is the case that at times those who have a mental illness are exposed to the horrid, negativity from others that can at times leave them feeling as if their dignity has been fractured.
It was my own personal decision to begin blogging about my mental health. I set up Dearest Someone, to write honestly about how I am coming to terms with and dealing with my own mental health. I try my hardest to use my blog as a platform to discuss and share matters that positively portray mental health - showing that I am still human, even though I suffer from depression, PTSD and anxiety. For me dignity means not being classified or identified by my mental health, but being perceived as a human (because I'm definitely not an alien). It's often the case that depression is referred to as the 'black dog' - I understand why. Depression isn't a part of me - it's not a pet either, but it's something that follows me around. For me depression isn't who I am, it's something I carry along with me (unwillingly of course), my mental illness is certainly not my fault, and I do not want it to define me.
I'm very open about my experiences with mental health, certainly to those around me but also on a public level. I write and blog about my recovery, and I stand up for what I believe is right, especially when it comes to breaking down mental health stigma.
I recently shared a post on my blog where I admitted that for the first time in a long time I was actually proud of myself. It's been a long time since I've been confident in myself, and it's been a long time since I have treated myself with dignity. I know a lot of discussion on World Mental Health Day will focus on how those with mental illness wish to be (or are already) treated with dignity, this is certainly a fantastic and much needed discussion - but I also think we should focus on how we treat, care for and accept ourselves.
It's okay to treat ourselves with dignity, it's okay to respect ourselves, and it's okay to tell ourselves that we are good eggs, that we are stars, that we are incredibly strong and that we are awesome.
I blog about mental health and wellbeing over on my blog: DearestSomeone.com