I recently had a brief conversation with a lovely lady about understanding mental health, specifically self-harming, and how she doesn’t understand why people would turn to physical harm when they are already hurting on the inside. This for me, this is a very reasonable thing for people to think! All areas of mental health can be difficult for people to understand, especially if they have never experienced a mental health disorder for themselves.
As a mental health advocate, I do not expect everyone to read my blog and suddenly become an expert in mental health… I am far from being an expert myself! All I ask is for people to be open-minded, to try their best to be supportive of people who are struggling with their mental health, to do their research and increase their general knowledge on the subject… none of these things means that you have to understand mental health!
There are still many things in regards to mental health that I do not understand. But I would never push someone away or question their actions or feelings… instead I would ask them to explain to me what it is like, rather than saying ‘why?’… because the truth is, people who are struggling with their mental health often do not have the answer to that question themselves. People can struggle with mental health disorders and not understand why. People can turn to self-harm as a form of release from their emotional pain, but not know why it helps them. In all honesty, mental health is complicated. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done in this area of the medical profession.
In regards to self-harm, many may believe it is a cry for help, and in many cases it is! On many occasions, those who self-harm are hoping someone will see and will support them and help them to seek the help that they need, without them having to ask for it or verbally admit that they need help. It is so very important not to stare at people with self-harm injuries, it is so important not to judge, or question why, but instead being there for them and showing them that they are not alone is what they truly need. It is hard to help someone when you have a lack of understanding, I completely get that! But sometimes it really is as simple as having a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on to help pull them through the dark patch that they are experiencing. It is also important to understand that sometimes it is not as easy as telling the person to ‘just stop doing it’ as self-harming can become addictive and when people show such a lack of kindness and concern it really does not help. Telling someone to ‘just stop’ can make them feel stupid, it can make them doubt themselves, like ‘why can I not just stop? What is wrong with me?’… the truth is, they are ill. There is nothing wrong with them as a person, they simply need help and guidance, which is absolutely okay.
I would never wish for anyone, not even my worst enemy, to have to go through a mental health disorder. They are exhausting, both mentally and physically, they affect most, if not every, aspect of the person’s life. They are hard to understand and therefore people find it hard to ask for help or do not realise that they need help. No one should have to feel that way, and if they do, they should not have to feel alone in their fight.
To cut a long story short, no one fully understands mental health and that is okay! Just be kind, show support, read up on things if and when you can and if you are caring for someone who is struggling… do not forget to also take care of yourself! It can be hard being there for someone 24/7, it can be tiring and mentally draining… this does not make you a bad person! Always take time out for yourself, it is okay to put yourself first.