When we talk about mental health, we talk about the diagnoses. The depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar. We talk about the illnesses and the labels. But that's only a part of the conversation, and why I'm so pleased that next year's London Marathon, a large scale event, will focus on the mental health conversation.
Everyone has a mental health, just like everyone has a physical health. We are taught how to look after our physical health even when we are not sick; we're told to exercise, eat well, brush our teeth, drink lots of water. So why aren't we taught how to look after our mental health in the same way? Why aren't we taught how to help sustain our good mental health, if we're so lucky to have that, as well as bring us back from the depths of a mental illness?
At The Mix, we want to give young people the skills to tackle anything that life throws their way, from supporting a friend who's grieving, to knowing the details of Cantonese style sweet and sour chicken... that's the most popular discussion board thread on our website... seriously. So, yes, I do mean 'anything'.
We don't tell them what to do, and we don't give direct advice. We know that young people are smart enough and strong enough to make their own decisions. Sometimes they just need a little nudge or a spattering of confidence. But, in society, if we eagerly and repeatedly teach practical, physical skills such as how to write a stellar CV, deal with painful periods, and budget money well... why don't we teach the skill of looking after your mental health too?
Because looking after your mental health IS a skill, especially for a young person. Life is stressful, and it's only getting more so. Pressure is coming from all angles, from school to family to media, so it's important now more than ever for young people to be in tune with their minds and bodies, to stay happy and in control. We need to support that. We need to talk about it.
Next year, battling the London Marathon will be another skill to learn for partakers, and it's a skill involving the mind just as much as the body. They work together, just as we all should to open up the conversations about mental health - the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.