Today has been the day of the Mental Health Debate in the House of Commons. (NB. No doubt there will be catch up on BBC or a round up on various websites, I will post links as available)
It has been highlighted over and over today that 1 in 4 people suffer from some sort of mental health challenge, and I can safely say that of those, 4 in 4 will face some sort of stigma, myself being no exception. I try to always speak out openly about my mental health, but there is always the little voice in the back of my mind wondering if I causing myself harm in doing so (career related or otherwise), and whether if little old me makes any difference at all. I tuned in today with intrigue and hope, and the hope that the hype of this debate would not be in vain.
I am happy to say, it was not.
MPs spoke candidly, and with care. They showed empathy. The House of Commons we know so well was stripped bare, no shouting and shennanigans, no bickering and banter. Politics and policies were pushed aside, and the conversation was centered purely around people, and how to ultimately change lives for the better.
It brought a tear to my eye hearing Kevan Jones and Charles Walker talk so opening about their own experiences, and facing that same fears as I; Kevan even saying “I’ve probably caused myself irreparable damage now” after a moving personal account of depression, which (and I hope is true) was quickly dismissed by fellow MPs and praised his courage to do so.
It is important to remember, that we should not only congratulate those that speak out about mental health, but now take this opportunity to contribute to this reform, to use our own voices. The smallest of stories really can make the biggest of differences, and when we all speak together – as today has quite clearly shown – that we will be heard.
Many people said today was Historical. Momentous. I agree whole heartedly. For the first time in a long time I have felt that I wasn’t quite so alone after all. That there are so many people out there fighting the cause and fighting our corner. The battle against Mental Health stigma no longer feels like a ‘David and Goliath’ scenario; David has suddenly found a stream of support he never knew he had. The crowds (in whatever form they be) stood by his side and said “no, we won’t stand for this, anymore.” Suddenly the defeat of Goliath doesn’t seem so inconceivable and far fetched at all.
Some key areas have been highlighted today; namely employment and funding, and the discriminatory attitudes that have followed and surrounded mental health for decades and seem never-changing in their stereotypes and judgements. MPs have looked at the elderly, the forces, the young, the old, and one fact remained and echoed every element of speech: Mental Health affects everyone. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, however you got to be there. This isn’t a ‘you’ and ‘them’ situation, this is about ‘us’.
A few people (including one MP) have said that its perhaps a big leap, perhaps a bit ambitious, the idea of stamping out the negativity surrounding mental health issues. I would have to hastily disagree.
When we talk about mental health discrimination, it is easily compared (and has been today) to racial prejudices faced not so many years ago. We remember Rosa Parks, and her personal stand for equal rights. But what we need to remember is this: although groundbreaking in her actions, Rosa Parks wasn’t making a political statement, nor making a stand. Her actions came from her heart and the hope of some sanctity and solace from a rickety old seat after a long hard day. She was simply an older lady sitting down because she was tired.
And I am tired too. Tired of keeping quiet, tired of judgement. So here, I sit, on the hopefully ever-changing and ever-moving bus, hopefully ever-moving forward, day by day, and encourage you to take your seats too.
History is being made, and this is your chance to be part of it.