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Todays blog is written by Clare, a 24-year-old newlywed with an advertising degree from Manchester Metropolitan University. Clare has recently been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Having experienced first-hand the impact of mental ill-health, Clare is able to give a voice to those that struggle.

Today: Monday 16th January is ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year according to a university professor who made calculations considering a combination of: Christmas blues, dark nights and the arrival of unpaid bills in mid-January. In keeping with the theme of Blue Monday, we are going to explore one of the most common challenges facing those with mental health disorders today; the ‘can’t you just…’ problem.

How many times has ‘can’t you just…’ been said to you? For example, ‘can’t you just cheer up?’ or ‘can’t you just snap out of it?’ A lot of the time people mean well but these questions can be extremely damaging, implying it’s somehow our own fault to be suffering with our mental health. This doesn’t happen because people are deliberately mean; they just don’t usually understand-which makes sense, because they’re not you. Let’s have a little look at how ridiculous the ‘can’t you just…’ would sound if it were said to someone with a physical illness:

*Has a broken leg* “Can’t you just get up? Lying in bed clearly isn’t helping.”

*Has food poisoning* “Can’t you just make a bit more of an effort?”

*Has Flu* “Can’t you just try not having the flu?”

*Has Diabetes* “Can’t you just go without medication, isn’t it bad that you have to take medication just to make you feel normal?”

These “can’t you just…” responses are said so commonly and whimsically about mental illnesses. It would be completely laughable if you were to say these to someone with a physical illness. It is so important to be honest about how you ‘can’t just’ to people that start their sentence like this, just like anyone with a physical illness ‘can’t just’ heal themselves. Mental health is complex and messy; people are still yet to understand just how much of a growing issue mental health disorders are, even though the figures are outstanding; ‘1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year’. (Mind.org.uk, 2016) Here are my top tips on how we can help others to help us.

Tip 1:

Seek help professionally: Going to your GP is the first port of call and describing your moods and behaviours to them.

Tip 2:

Be honest with those you trust: It can be an extremely daunting thought, but how can we expect people to know what’s really going on if we aren’t telling them the extent to which we’re struggling?

Tip 3:

Science it up: “Scientists who study mental illness believe an imbalance in brain chemicals contributes to the development of many disorders. Researchers suspect this imbalance impedes the brain’s ability to move a message from neuron to neuron and for the brain’s wiring to function normally. As a result of this breakdown, the brain may not communicate properly with the body, and a person may begin to show signs of mental illness”.

Tip 4:

Let them know how they can help, practically and emotionally: Whether it’s a friend to sit with you during low times, practical help with shopping or help leaving the house, let your trusted loved ones know how they can help you, because you deserve the help.

Tip 5:

Don’t hide behind a mask of ‘I’m Fine’: Even though we live in an ‘I’m fine’ culture, if you’re not fine don’t pretend to be, it’s exhausting for yourself to keep up this persona and unhelpful for those around you that could be supporting you instead of believing everything is fine.

If we want those ‘can’t you just…’ questions to fade away we have to be at the forefront of changing attitudes, which can be extremely daunting when some days it’s hard enough getting out of bed. In the words of the great philosopher Winnie the Pooh, “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and loved more than you know”

Thanks for reading, all the best on your journey 🙂

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