As you go on a stroll this week, we would like you to consider how on any given week about 1 in 6 people in England report experiencing common mental health problems (like anxiety or depression). What is important to note is that mental health is not something we can always visibly see. Sometimes the most confident and outgoing person is battling depression or the calm and collected person is internally dealing with anxiety and not knowing how to set boundaries. The truth is we ALL have mental health, just like we all have physical health. Mental health is health and yet there is an ongoing stigma when seeking support for mental health ailments versus physical ailments.
Let’s start here: When you have a fever, what do you typically do? Do you take medicine, eat soup, get rest or perhaps go to the doctor? Many would share one of these responses. However, when we ask “what do you do when you are experiencing depression, anxiety, hopelessness, insomnia, etc.,” does the idea of seeking support, getting rest, or taking medicine feel different?
As two mental health clinicians from communities of colour, we notice that people often express psychological issues as physical complaints (i.e. tension, headaches, stomach aches, chronic pain). In fact, some individuals will recognise certain symptoms yet insist they do not have a mental health concern given the ongoing shame associated with acknowledging mental illness.
So this leads to us thinking: if mental health is health, then what’s the problem?
When we look at history, mental health has been polarised and associated with strong social stigma, making it difficult for individuals to be forthcoming about their mental health difficulties. Additionally, for other oppressed communities and communities of colour who do not want to be portrayed as “less than, ” they will go to extremes to try to project images of “strength.” When we acknowledge a history of systemic injustice and cultural customs (such as reserved mannerisms), using phrases such as “I am fine” can at times be synonymous with “I am not okay” and loved ones asking “are you hungry” can be their way of saying “I care and how can I help?”
This type of indirect communication can be difficult, but the good news is we are seeing positive changes with a rise in millennial mental health professionals, clinicians of colour supporting their communities, and younger generations using social media to normalise mental health.
Mental health is not something to be ashamed of, just as physical health is not something to be shamed for.
As mental health clinicians, we hope to bring more conversations about mental health in our communities, increase cultural awareness, and slowly diminish the negative stigma. We believe in the power of community and know that at times it only takes one person to inspire and give hope to others.
We are K & B Therapy, and like you, we also have mental health.
 McManus, S., MEltzer, H. Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P, Jenkins, R, Brugha T. (Eds.) (2016). Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult psychiatric morbidity surgery 2014