Whether you’ve had any experience with mental health issues or not, and no matter how broad your understanding is, it goes without saying that we are beginning to enter an era where, as a world, we know more about mental health. That is not to say there is not still more to conquer, there is a wide mass of naivety and misunderstanding still, but we are slowly improving our perception and opening our minds to the discussion. One man that is helping to lead these discussions is the British author and journalist, Matt Haig.
Matt Haig has written both fiction and non-fiction and has gained wide popularity in both forms, bringing issues of identity and mental illness into both. In particular, his books Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet have become essential reading for adults and teenagers alike. His books champion an honesty that is far less bubble-wrapped than other books, he channels an optimism throughout all of his work but also lets go of a filter and brings complete candidness to the forefront. What this does is break down the stigma about what constitutes as ‘too much’.
In our modern world, it seems we have started to understand mental health more, and welcomed people to speak more freely while still placing a negative image on the extent we can speak. Almost as if you are allowed to talk about your depression, as long as you don’t talk too much or cross a line that someone has defined without telling you what that line is.
The statistics are important and ever increasing and I implore you to take the time and research these, but we seem to know more about the scope and existence of mental health, and yet are still unaware of what it actually means and how severe it can be.
Mental Health issues have been prevalent in my life since my birth, with my family, friends and myself suffering at some point in varying severities and lengths. It’s really difficult to know how to cup it in your hands as a digestible, and less intimidating entity to comprehend. This is where I really think we’ve started to improve.
We’re finding new ways to define it, to cope with it, to lessen its impact and by extension make it easier to cope with.
Matt Haig, Dodie, Reni-Eddo Lodge, this huge community of poets that I am so happy to be a part of, and so many other figures, internet folk and businesses alike have inspired me greatly to keep fighting forward.
Coming back to Matt Haig, in particular, the reason he has become such an idol to me this year is that his social media posts, his presence in continuing discussions and his vehement determination to represent mental health correctly is everything we need right now. He doesn’t try to put a face on when he is struggling himself and he doesn’t shy away from speaking breakdowns or suicide.
While he expresses openness and his feelings and sensitivity, fight also for male femininity and sensitivity to be recognised, it does not mean you have to be able to talk straight away. Talking is the hardest part of all, but equally as important, but having these figures who express their issues and express their coping mechanisms break down the barrier of loneliness and estrangement from a society that accompanies mental health.
That is important.
One wall broken down is another closer to finding a way to cope.
I’ve found, though, that if no-one talks about what is bothering them, their friends, family and colleagues have no idea what to do. This is where its essential to realise as well that coping and surviving is far more than just the vocal acceptance and admittance, but the circle around us. Who is there for us? Who can just accept the silence, and sit with us because all we actually need is a little company? Who will do sweet little gestures to remind us we’re loved? There will always be someone willing.
Survival is more than just verbal, it’s visceral, it’s environmental, it’s everything basically. It’s complicated but we’re slowly getting there and I, for one, feel optimistic.