Label jars, not people

It saddens me that, in 2016, we live in a society where mental health continues to be a ‘label’. Mental health is everyone’s business. We all have times when we feel down, stressed or frightened. For most of the time, those feelings pass. However, these feelings may develop into a more serious problem, and do you want to know the truth? That could happen to any one of us.

I’m going to keep this blog post short and sweet. One, because the message is simple. Two, because I’ve been awake for around 17 hours! If you haven’t heard already, today is World Mental Health Day. Although it seems counterintuitive to be ‘celebrating’ this awareness day, I feel immensely proud to see so many people do their bit in talking about mental health.

We’re all beautiful, unique human beings. We are all different – in our ways, our needs, and our feelings. Your mental health doesn’t always stay the same, just like your physical health doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances change and as you move through different stages of your life.

Sadly, the stigma attached to mental health problems remains an issue. People feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health. Many people don’t even feel comfortable talking about their feelings. But it’s healthy to know and say how you’re feeling.

As many of you will know, I live with several long-term conditions. These are viewed as conditions affecting my physical health. Arthritis has damaged my joints. Crohn’s disease has scarred my bowel. Fibromyalgia has caused me to live with chronic pain and fatigue. It’s always about the physical side – at the hospital, at work, at home. Even these conditions are invisible to the outside world, so how on earth would anybody know that these conditions impact on how I am feeling? I’ve been there, and I’m sure you or somebody you know has too.

“Behind every sweet smile is a bitter sadness that no one can ever see and feel.”

We’re all fighting our own battles. Let’s hold out our hands and support those who are struggling. Be kind, always. Smile often. Celebrate every moment you possibly can. Love your life and the people you share it with. And remember, it’s okay to ask for help – you’re only human.

Written by simonrstones

Simon R. Stones BSc (Hons) is a multi-award winning patient advocate, consultant and researcher from Bolton in the United Kingdom. He was recognised in 2019 as one of the top 100 most influential people with disabilities in the UK, and was the winner of the international WEGO Health Award for Patient Healthcare Collaborator in 2017. He is a passionate advocate and ambassador for people living with chronic conditions and invisible illnesses, inspired and empowered by his own journey with juvenile arthritis, fibromyalgia, and inflammatory bowel disease since childhood, as well as a carer for his mother. He is currently an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, a trustee of Fibromyalgia Action UK and RAiISE, board member of the European Network for Children with Arthritis (ENCA) and President of the European Network of Fibromyalgia Associations (ENFA).

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