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My Journey of Understanding

written by Jess Dando 19/09/2014

My Journey of Understanding
Before my own experience of depression and anxiety, I was also ashamedly, one of those people - the dust it off, find it all quite uncomfortable, get over it you’re just feeling low types.

My Journey of Understanding

As I prepare myself for what I believe will be a great Journey of Understanding, and some much needed outdoor exercise in great company, I start to think about think about what it all means, the walk, the purpose, and why it is so important to me being involved.  It still amazes me how loosely we use the terms 'mad as a hatter' and 'insane' 'crazy' 'couple of sandwiches short of a picnic', I could go on, the bottom line is that there are so many people out there suffering from some sort of mental illness that it is more than likely, unless you live on Mars, that you would know someone or be related to someone, or you yourself will at some point have had issues with mental health, yet still, regardless of this, the stigma and ignorance surrounding Mental Health seems just as rife. The question I ask myself is why? 

it is more than likely, unless you live on Mars, that you would know someone or be related to someone, or you yourself will at some point have had issues with mental health

My opinion is that there are a number of factors, starting with the lack of education provided about the subject, hopefully this will change, the good old media add fuel to the fire of course, as always doing their bit to keep the masses as ignorant as possible, dishing out the 'crazy psycho escapes from one flew over the cuckoo's nest and murders a whole town' stories like there is no tomorrow, telling people what they want to hear.  I also feel that it’s very much a case of if you can’t see it isn't there, and if we don't understand it, then we like to pretend it isn't there.

Before my own experience of depression and anxiety, I was also ashamedly, one of those people - the dust it off, find it all quite uncomfortable, get over it you’re just feeling low types. Regardless, I had many different friends, some of whom had their own problems with mental health and I tended not to delve too deeply but just to accept the things I looked upon as being positive about them at the time. Later in life, with experience comes understanding I suppose, and through my experience, I was able to open my mind and begin to understand first hand how awful and alone you can feel when you are struggling and suffering but you are too afraid to tell anyone, even if you really understood the feelings yourself. Whatever you’re going through, the world just keeps turning, you feel that if you express negativity then people won’t want to talk to you, who likes the moaner, the whinger who's always miserable? I was the life and soul of the party but all of a sudden there was terrible stuff going on inside and I was too ashamed to tell anyone. It's only then, I began to understand that to tell someone that has had all the joy of life sucked out of them, for unexplainable reasons to 'pull themselves together' is more than a tad condescending, and a prime example of how much work needs to be done to educate and change the attitude of those who do not understand. 

Later in life, with experience comes understanding I suppose, and through my experience, I was able to open my mind and begin to understand first hand how awful and alone you can feel when you are struggling and suffering but you are too afraid to tell anyone

This will not happen over night, and is one of the many fights that needs to happen so that we can try to understand each other and live harmoniously together, to help our families, our friends and our fellow neighbours to deal with the issues they have with mental health and to try to ensure the numbers of those suffering do not keep rising and for those people who are suffering in silence to talk about it and feel no shame in admitting they need help.  We need to educate people that mental health covers a wide range of mental illness and those who suffer from mental health issues are everyday people, your shop keeper, postman, taxi driver, local businessman, even your doctor, it can happen to anyone. I for one am proudly looking forward to walking amongst some fabulous people to celebrate diversity, community and to help raise awareness for a cause that affects us all in some way.

The Journey of Understanding is a walk in West Wales on 20th September 2014. It aims to bring together people with and without mental health problems to challenge the stigma around mental health. Everybody is welcome to join us. Find out more here or join the Facebook event here.

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email info@timetochangewales.org.uk

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