By Charlie Zahra
Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, according to national statistics. The stigma surrounding mental health needs breaking as we could have a much greater society if we all showed compassion and sought to find a way to ease the pain of those sufferers, outside of the great work of our NHS.
This is not a problem for the UK alone, around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions worldwide, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability, say the World Health Organisation. In the Sevenoaks manifesto for the local elections this year, we make a pledge for healthier communities that bring communities together.
The pain felt by individuals does not need to be stigmatised any further. We can help in making the lives of those who suffer easier in the simplest of ways.
A quick smile when we see someone on the street. Acknowledging eye contact, rather than looking another way. Engaging in conversation where possible, and being more open minded by not automatically assuming that their health issues are solely their own problem (drug and alcohol related).
Lifting the taboo around mental health is the first step to raising greater awareness and humanity towards their struggles.
Finally, below is a poem I would like to share, written by one of our local members, who has experienced this stigma first hand. From these words, we could all learn a thing or two.
The Non-Awareness Spectre
You may see a smelly, scruffy man sleeping on a bench
Or another guy badly shaking, trying to dig a trench
There could be a lone teen who at you seems to stare
Maybe it is autism and their mind is sadly elsewhere.
There may be a person walking erratically down the road
Don’t assume that drugs have made the mind erode
In a public eating place a man may be being spoon fed
Something has attacked his brain cells and messed with his head
I ask you to hold your feelings and show no disdain
And from making nasty comments, I hope you will refrain.
They all could have terrible neuro diseases
Far removed from everyday coughs and sneezes
I wonder how you would cope, not knowing what to do
If just a few of our problems were bestowed onto you
Just consider how we feel, when badly you react
It would be nice to see you smile and use a little tact.