Some of you may already know, but the Mental Health Foundation has hosted Mental Health Awareness Week in May since 2000. In previous years they have focused on how mindfulness, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and relationships can impact our mental health. This year the theme is ‘surviving to thriving’.
A huge number of us suffer from some form of mental illness, inside and outside of the LGBTQ+ community, including myself. Mental health used to have an awful stigma about it, thankfully we are starting to see some progress with the awareness of the invisible illnesses. Though it is becoming more talked about, people are still struggling to cope with their mental health and may be scared or unsure how to go about asking for help.
The LGBT Foundation tells us that people of the LGBTQ+ community are twice as likely as heterosexual people to have suicidal thoughts or to make suicide attempts. Why is this? Because we are still fighting for equality. It’s no secret that many members of our community are dealing with mental health issues, as we all know, being LGBTQ+ comes with risks as not everyone is accepting of it. It makes us have to be more aware of where we are and what we say and this inevitably causes us to feel like we are not worthy.
But that’s not true – those who can’t accept us are the ones who aren’t worthy. We show more strength and courage by being true to ourselves no matter what the world thinks of us. What’s most important is looking after yourself, there is no shame in asking for help and truthfully it took me a couple of years to realise that.
Personally, after a few years of feeling depressed, I finally told my mother and I saw a doctor. This was the single hardest thing I had ever done but it was also the best. The minute you step into that room, things begin to get better. The help is out there but you have to go get it, you have to want the help and you have to try.
But it’s important to not single out depression, there are other forms of mental illness that seem to get brushed under the carpet and they are just as valid as any. People suffer from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and many others. You are all important and you deserve to not suffer in silence.
So in light of the theme ‘surviving to thriving’, I urge you to take that first step. You can speak to us if you feel like you can’t talk about it anywhere else, we are here to help. Though we are not professionals we can listen, but you need to help yourself to be helped.
Life is wonderful and we all deserve to enjoy it so let’s stop just getting by and start living it to the fullest.
Ash – Co-founder of Unite UK