Mental health awareness has become a popular topic over the last few years and there is also a whole week devoted to mental health awareness. However, I personally think that although mental health awareness is important, it’s not enough on it’s own when it comes to making progress as a society. Mental health acceptance is just as if not more important than mental health awareness. In this blog post I will talk about why I think mental health awareness is not enough on its own, as well as discuss the importance of mental health acceptance.
Firstly, I want to emphasise that mental health awareness is not the same as mental health acceptance, and there is quite a big difference between the two terms. Mental health awareness refers to people talking about their mental health and essentially bringing the topic of mental health out in the open. Because of mental health awareness, there is now more public knowledge about different mental health conditions. Mental health acceptance comes from a place of understanding, and having a genuine appreciation that all mental health struggles are valid. This is different from mental health awareness, as knowing that certain mental health struggles exist doesn’t necessary imply that you have an appreciation and understanding of it.
The main reason why I don’t think mental health awareness on its own is enough is because it puts too much emphasis on individuals struggling with their mental health to open up, and not enough emphasis on how other people can be a good listener when someone opens up to them. I also talk about this in another one of my blogs here. Essentially, there are still many people that come across as judgemental and not very empathetic when someone opens up about their mental health struggles to them. Partly this could be because they don’t know how to effectively approach a situation where someone opens up to them about their mental health struggles. However, I can say from experience that if you have the courage to open up about your mental health struggles to someone only to feel like you are being judged by the person you opened up to, then it can put you off opening up in the future. As I said in the second paragraph, mental health awareness focuses on bringing the topic of mental health out in the open, but it doesn’t focus enough on how individuals struggling with their mental health can be best supported.
As mentioned in the second paragraph, I think that mental health acceptance comes from a place of understanding, and having an appreciation that all mental health struggles are valid. Mental health acceptance has benefits both at an individual level and a society level. At an individual level, if we each work towards mental health acceptance, then we become more empathetic and understanding not only to others, but to ourselves as well. This means that we are more likely to deal with our own struggles in an effective manner, whether that is mental health struggles or any other struggles. I know from experience that understanding and appreciating that all mental health struggles are valid helped me when it came to dealing with my own struggles. Furthermore, at a society level, working towards mental health acceptance means that we are taking the time to understand the struggles other people face, even if we can’t relate to them ourselves. This mentality can help us address other problems we face as a society, such as sexual abuse and racism. In short, mental health acceptance at a society level can have benefits even outside of the topic of mental health.
When it comes to the relationship between mental health awareness and mental health acceptance, my opinion is that working towards mental health acceptance can really drive mental health awareness, and I don’t think you need to focus on mental health awareness first before focusing on mental health acceptance. As mentioned previously, I think that the main barrier when it comes to raising awareness of the topic of mental health is people being judgemental of others struggling with their mental health and not appreciating that all mental health problems are valid, as this can be off putting when it comes to individuals talking about their mental health. Therefore, I would like to see mental health acceptance as a key driver when it comes to raising awareness of mental health, rather than society thinking that you need to raise awareness of mental health first before thinking about mental health acceptance.
When it comes to what you can do to ensure mental health acceptance at an individual level, my main tip would be to acknowledge that you don’t know everything when it comes to the topic of mental health, and therefore you need to have an open mind. One reason why certain mental health struggles get a bad reaction from others is that people aren’t open minded when it comes to mental health problems they barely know anything about. A good example is OCD. I feel that people that genuinely struggle with OCD are more likely to have their struggles invalidated (sadly), as a lot of people think OCD is just being a bit picky when it comes to cleaning rather than appreciating that OCD is a genuine mental health problem in it’s own right. It isn’t difficult to have an open mind, it’s just having that appreciation that an open mind is needed for mental health acceptance.
Do you have anything to add on this topic?