To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 May 2017), we have a very special guest blog from Marissa Bartle who is launching the “It’s OK Not To Be OK” campaign.
A little different from my usual posts, but something I feel is important enough to write about, and something I have been working on for a little while now. In a world that strives for perfection in so many ways, I want to send a message to say that;
‘It’s OK Not To Be OK’
I am reading so many articles in the news and on social media worldwide about suicide rates, depression, bullying and social pressures causing utter tragedies, and I feel it is very important for us all to feel comfortable talking about mental health, our feelings and our experiences. We need to be able to support each other and provide comfort when we need.
I read a Guardian article recently, which gave some information with regards to young people, and how schools are dealing with emotional support. It stated that four in five 12-16 year olds experience ’emotional distress’, but only 1 in 20 would turn to a teacher for help with depression, anxiety, stress or the inability to cope emotionally. Considering the amount of time this age group spends in school, it’s worrying to think they feel they have nowhere to turn. It also stated that teachers are poorly trained for such work, and often feel unable to help. Only around 50% of Parliamentary Health and Education Committees provide counselling in schools, which in most cases was a maximum of one day a week, but the majority of the time was even less frequent than this.
Having worked with young people for a short time, I was able to witness just a few of the stresses the young people were facing, and really came to understand the difficulties they faced when it came to speaking out about their thoughts and feelings, namely, the question of who to talk to. Being in a position where I was somewhere between a parent and a teacher, I was a role model and a friendly face for the young people I supported, and this appeared to allow them to speak to me about all manner of things, a position which I was absolutely honoured to be in.
I think now more than ever, it is vitally important to speak out about mental and emotional stress, not only in our young people, but people from all generations. We need to create a culture where it is okay not to be okay, and totally supportive to speak comfortably about how we are feeling.
It saddens me greatly to read of the suicides and tragedies that are occurring more and more frequently, or so it seems, especially amongst young people who have barely even begun their journey in life. However, older generations too, who feel that even with all of their life experience, they have nowhere to turn.
I want to start by writing a short piece about just a few of the pressures and stresses that I feel can be contributing factors, in the hope that others will spread the word and contribute with their own experiences, thoughts, feelings and advice. The more we all talk, the less taboo these subjects will become, and hopefully we will feel more comfortable as a nation when it comes to discussing mental health and getting the help we need.
Social media (SM) are platforms that the majority of us use, and they can be wonderful for staying in touch with people all over the world, promoting businesses and services, as well as discussing all manner of topics. Even this article is easily spread thanks to SM, however with ever-advancing technologies making SM platforms more and more accessible to younger people, we have to be very responsible when it comes to our use of them and our honesty in relation to it.
It has to be made very clear that SM is very much used by people sharing their positive experiences. There is very much a ‘good vibes only’ rule, sharing photos of our amazing travels, stories of our extraordinary experiences, and posts to make sure all of our fellows know how much of a fantastic time we are having. So much so, it appears that proving to everyone else we are having a good time has become more important than actually having a good time.
This results in scrolling through a feed of continuous happiness, excitement, adventure, wealth and aesthetic selfies. The social pressures we can feel as a result are that we too feel we need to be having a continuously good time. We need to always be happy, look glamorous, have the ‘perfect figure’ (if there is such a thing?!), and have the most prestigious products on the market.
This is such an unrealistic life to try to live up to, and we ave to understand that everyone has good and bad days. Not everyone looks glamorous all of the time, and even the people with the most desirable SM galleries have mundane days. Take a look at your own account. Do you post when you’re having a bad day? Do you want to tell everyone if you are feeling upset or annoyed? Do you want to take photos of yourself when you are not dressed up to the nines, or do you only post selfies when you feel they are aesthetic enough? We are all guilty of positive posting, so remember this next time you scroll through your feeds. You can’t feel pressured by everyone else’s good days, because it’s only half the story.
Whether online or face-to-face, bullying someone is absolutely disgraceful, and we all need to be more conscious of how our words and actions can affect others. You may not consider yourself a bully, perhaps you’re ‘too old’ or you don’t ‘pick on’ someone in particular, but there really are so many variations of the action of bullying, that we may well be in that category without even realising. You may even be having a detrimental affect on someone you don’t converse with very often. Whether a young person in school, attending a sports club or organisation, an adolescent in college, an adult newbie in uni, or anyone at home; in the workplace, picking up children, at social events, or even just out shopping, we are impacting one another in everything we do, and we need to be more conscious of this. What may seem like a joke to you or a passing comment, even one that is not aimed at someone can cause upset. We have no idea of what the people around us may be going through, or what their thoughts and feelings may be, so strive to be kind; always. You’re kindness, friendly smile, generosity or passing compliment could help to change a life.
Speaking about mental health is still a taboo, and we need to be aware that it is not cowardly to speak out. Whether male or female, and regardless of age, you have every right to be true to yourself about how you are feeling. Find someone in whom you can trust. Be it friend for family, professional therapist, colleague or acquaintance, find people you are comfortable talking to, and be proud that you have the strength to speak out. Its not cowardly to admit your feelings, nor to express your emotions or confirm you are struggling to cope. We need to make this well known and breed a culture of security, dismissing the taboo of these subjects.
It is so positive to see so many celebrities, sports stars, ambassadors and role models taking the time to share their personal journeys, and working towards a healthier communication system. People are campaigning against bullying and supporting so many fantastic organisations to help the cause, so to everyone making a positive difference, no matter how big or small you feel your gesture – THANK YOU.
I have decided to start the ‘It’s OK Not To Be OK’ Campaign by getting you all involved in any way you like. Whether you want to share a personal story or experience, offer advice, post pictures tor just show your support, please use the hashtag #itsoknottobeok. Let’s get talking!
It’s amazing what people can do when they get together, so lets start something thats really exciting and incredibly important. Lets do it for our friends and family, our children and our parents, those we know have fought, and those no longer with us. Most of all, lets do it for ourselves.
*If you wish to submit stories, experiences, advice or posts anonymously, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will share them on your behalf. Thank you all for your support.
Guest blog written by Marissa from Marissa’s Travel Blog.
“Hello! My name is Marissa and I am originally from a small village in South West Wales. My family and friends are the most important things to me, and thanks to my travelling I’m able to add more fantastic people from all over the world to that friends list.”
Marissa’s blog: marissastravelblog.wordpress.com