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Does mental health have sex appeal?

We are just weeks away from an election here in Australia. And my fave question of the election coverage via twitter is:

#mental health tweet

The problem is, in this election, health (as against mental health the poor cousin) barely seems to rate a mention.

So what to do about health? What to do about mental health? Will jumping up and down bring them onto the agenda? Will ranting? Or is “sexing them up” a much better idea? If we take the “sexing up” route, what do you think it would look like?

I guess I’m kind of stumped I have to admit. It’s pretty hard to “sex up” without trivialising. So maybe instead of fighting so hard to get mental health onto the political agenda, we’d be better off spending the energy getting mental health onto our own agenda?

Consider:

  • How many us currently have, or will have, a mental health condition.
  • How many of us currently have, or will have, a family member or loved one with a mental health condition.
  • How many of us currently sit, or will sit, just desks away from someone with a mental health condition.

But even with so many people affected, can we honestly say we see mental health conditions just like any other chronic illness – say diabetes or asthma? Do we see the condition (i.e. the label), or do we see the person behind the condition?

 recently wrote a beautiful post showing why people with a mental illness are NOT their disease.

He writes:

If you have a mental illness of any stripe, you are NOT your disease. It does not define you. It is not the sum total of your existence. It does not put a stamped sign on your forehead that announces to the world that you are suffering every time you walk into a room.

I know, I know, this is a little thing, but believe me, I notice it and you should too. I have a couple of friends who are word people and words matter, people!

If you have a mental illness like bipolar disorder, or if you have a medical illness like cancer, diabetes, or lupus, you are still you.

Don’t ever forget that.

The disease may cause you great pain and suffering, it may alter your lifestyle, and it may cause you problems with jobs and relationships. It may even kill you one day. Still and all, it is a disease. It’s a thing to be evaluated and diagnosed and treated and managed, so that you may go about your life the way you want to.

Whether it’s us with the mental illness, a loved one, a colleague we need to be able to see the truth behind the label. We need to really know how special each person is whether they have a mental health condition, or a physical condition. Whether they are similar to you, or different to you. We need to see that people are people and have infinite value regardless of labels.

So here’s something to try…next time you come across a homeless person on a street corner – don’t just drop a coin into their hat. Give them the coin – hand to hand – look them in the eye and say “thank-you”. I promise you, this exercise will leave you feeling the humanity blossom between both of you. You will have done your bit to break down stigma and add some light to a corner or the world. You will have chased away some darkness.

So my friends, I think this is the true secret to “sexing up” mental health, with or without the politicians.

Look past the label, see the person, and bring more light into the world.

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