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It's World Mental Health Day

Updated on October 9, 2016

What Is World Mental Health Day?

World Mental Health Day is a day for raising awareness and advocating mental health and the understanding of mental illness. It is a strong development in our understanding of the fragility of our mind and it's crucial role in our overall health and how our day to day life can affect it. Organised by World Federation for Mental Health, every year the 10th of October is dedicated to raising awareness and advocating the importance of keeping the mind well looked after. Not only does it begin a discussion of mental health, but it also is a day for education and learning about what mental illness and mental health look like.

Suicide in Australia

Communicating Mental Illness

What is mental health actually supposed to mean? Are we supposed to celebrate our mental health? What if our mental state is stable at the moment? Are we supposed to glower in the corner and watch the healthy people dance around?

Mental health has received a massive amount of attention in the last twenty years. Most people know what mental health is and looks like. We know to treat ourselves with kindness when feeling sad and to treat others similarly. We know more about mental illness than we ever have before. Yet it is something we still cannot seem to grasp fully. Coming from a person with borderline personality disorder, a disease where because of trauma, the brain has not developed properly and the person experiences emptiness, impulsiveness and self-mutilation, it is hard for me to even grasp an understanding of my own mind, let alone someone else’s.

In philosophy, the mind is often regarded very separate from the body and the physical world. The mind is a spiritual form that is driven by physical development. So of course there are physical symptoms that can indicate whether our mind is in a reasonable state. Breathing is one of the aspects of our body that can be influenced by our mind. In fact it can then affect other areas of our body like heart rate, sweating and blood pressure. But purely because the oxygen we breathe fuels our brain, the centre of our mind. We can also observe body language and behaviour, all of which is driven by the mind.

But other than that, there is little simple quantitative data to indicate mental illness. The key thing that is needed is a voice. The person needs to be able to communicate the distress to another person, and so on until the distress is communicated to a specialist and treatment can be provided. But the tricky thing with mental illness is often, that voice does not want to be heard. The mental illness fights the person, sometimes controlling their actions and what they say, all to appear well so the illness may keep surviving and thriving in that person’s mind.

Just think about that for a second.

The illness takes control of that one thing we thought couldn’t be taken; our will. Now you look at a patient with cancer. They aren’t actually controlling their medication that fights cancer cells – that’s happening on a biological level. Unfortunately they can’t will the death of those cancer cells. That’s what the treatment does. But mental illness is a whole other level of hell. There is only a small amount that biological science can do to assist us in treatment. The rest is up to us.

Unfortunately, it has to start with us summoning up the courage to beat down that illness to let our voice be heard. And that is what I want to emphasise. My boyfriend often asks me ‘You haven’t mentioned that issue before? How come it is only coming up now?’ and I respond with the fact that if a person with mental illnesses were to tell another every single thought that ran through their head…well there aren’t enough hours in the day. Because in our head is not only us, but the illness as well.

A difficult part of borderline personality disorder is being able to differentiate between me and the illness. That emptiness that I feel when I think of ‘me’ is haunting. Who am I? I remember filling out those strongly agree or strongly disagree scales in primary school and high school and I’d often be confused. How do I know if I’m answering the question as me, as what others want me to write, as what I want to write, or as what is most attractive? How can I know?

Mental illness is an extraordinarily heavy burden to bare. With 1 in every 3 people experiencing mental illness in their lifetime, it shows just how much of an affect it has on society.

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