Thursday October 10th 2019 is World Mental Health Day, a time to reflect on how powerful it can be to share your authentic feelings and experiences with someone whom you can trust. People often see physical illness as worthy of empathy because it is visible. For example, you would not fault someone in a wheelchair for not being able to run at a certain speed. In contrast, because mental illness is invisible, it is less likely to garner that same extent of empathy. Other people may blame someone with clinical depression or anxiety for not being able to work because they perceive that person to be lazy. People are more forgiving of physical illness than a mental illness, even though on a global scale, one in four people will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives.
There is a lot of pressure exerted on individuals to put on a strong face; to give the impression that everything is going well in their lives despite adverse, unfair, unexpected and traumatic events that have happened or continue to happen. It can be painful to suffer in silence, or to think that even if you screamed, other people would pretend that they could not hear you. Someone may be brave enough to speak their truth on a public forum, and notice that some of their social media 'friends' or followers have unfollowed them. Or perhaps you make people aware of an injustice happening at school, work, or other public setting, and other people term you "unprofessional", minimize contact with you, and/or inflict unfair punishments simply because they have the power to do so. Systemic power imbalances perpetuated in society allow certain people and organizations to get away with horrible things on a regular basis and rarely do these people show any remorse for what they have done or continue to do. It shows great strength of character when you stand up for yourself in the face of opponents with considerably more resources than you.
Especially today, remember that speaking your truth allows you to step into your personal power, regardless of how other people label you, or what consequences are inflicted on you. On a daily basis, you need to define your own self-worth, and not let this be determined by other people's opinions and projections. It takes courage to share your story, knowing that you may not get the outcome you want or you may be criticized or ostracized for doing so. Sometimes people label someone as 'negative' or a 'troublemaker' because they were brave enough to call out the evil and immoral actions of other people. At the same time, you know that in the future, other people in your position may be in a stronger position to tackle the injustices you faced. There is tremendous potential for change in sharing your personal narrative, whether it is in person, online, in the media, or through the written or spoken word. Everytime you share your story, you influence other people, and those people influence other people. You never know how large your circle of influence really is or who you are indirectly influencing at any given time. If you have overcome your own personal mental health stuggles, or are currently working through them, please do share your story. You never know whose heart and soul you will touch in the process.