Life’s Greatest Taboo

Helena Keeble

Helena Keeble comments on how mental health is viewed and ways to help those you love who are suffering

Life is full of hardships and trials. We are constantly being pushed beyond our limits and so many people try to help us, but never really know how. Most of us have that special someone we can turn to – whether it’s our parent, significant other, best friend or councillor. We all project our negative feelings in multiple ways; commonly through anger or tears but sometimes it can escalate to more destructive behaviour such as self-harm. Nowadays there is a lack of understanding in regards to someone’s pain and depression, derived from the stigma surrounding mental health. How many times have we felt down and someone has told us to just ‘get over it’? Or been told that happiness is within our control?

As humans we have the amazing ability to experience an unlimited variety of emotions and states of mind. However, it is impossible to wake up in the morning and decide, ‘I will be happy today!’ While we have the ability to control our actions and decisions in life, there are external elements which can occur unexpectedly and hit us hard. This could range from something as small as losing your pen, to something as big as losing a loved one – but all can affect us in various ways, especially if you’re having a bad day. Everyone reacts differently to the world and we all display our emotions in singular ways, but that doesn’t mean someone who constantly smiles is in less pain than the girl who has lines etched onto her body.

However, it is impossible to wake up in the morning and decide, ‘I will be happy today!’

Everyday, more and more teenagers and young adults are being diagnosed with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. If you haven’t been diagnosed, you often know someone that has. We try our best to support them through the hard days, but for some, this is an endless run of self-hatred and negativity. As much as we would like to make this illness disappear, the world needs to recognise it for what it is: an illness. Similar to glandular fever, cancer and tuberculosis or most physical illnesses, there are treatments but they don’t work for everyone. However, we can do little things which will brighten their day. While we may not be able to cure everyone, we can support them, try to make them smile, even if it’s just for a second, and never ever tell them to ‘just be happy’ or ‘get over it’.

Once these illnesses are no longer taboos, and people stop ignoring the fact that they are illnesses, we will be able to help those we love. We all have our bad days and when we are experiencing one no one wants to be patronised or told that what they are feeling is stupid or their own fault. Once this negative stigma ends, it may just make our bad days a little bit better.