Laura Darrall, gives us a heartfelt insight into her amazing social media campaign
The hardest thing about mental illness is pretending that you’re ok. It’s exhausting putting on a smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes when all your body and mind is screaming for you to do is lie down, cry and not get up.
You can’t pull yourself together because at that moment in time you don’t have the strength or cognitive ability to do so. You try to be ok and to seem fine because you don’t want anyone to worry, you don’t want to be a burden to your family and friends.
And the best thing you can do is to talk about it, which is why I am writing this and why I created #itaffectsme. I am asking you all to take a selfie with a post-it note on your head, that says #itaffectsme, upload it to social media, donate to Mind and then share, share, share!
#itaffectsme is simply the statement that at some point in all our lives we have seen or known mental illness in ourselves or others and have been affected or moved by it.
And the selfie is to stop people having the need to hide, or be embarrassed by it, to show a united front and to express the universality of these illnesses. Mental illness has no prejudices about who it affects, so we should have no prejudices about it.
The idea for #itaffectsme first came to me after I came out the other side of a mental breakdown, six months of panic attacks, anxiety, OCD and depression. I was sat on the edge of my bed and for the first time in months I felt clarity of thought and a fire in my belly and I knew that I had to use it to make a change, to make people unafraid to speak out about mental health and to put an end to stigma surrounding it. But I had no idea how, so I said a prayer, looked over at my desk, spotted the post-its and then it was like a light bulb switched on in my brain, a real Eureka moment, and it has snowballed from there.
I am so overwhelmed and thrilled with the response. If I can get just one person who is suffering to speak out and ask for help then it is worth every single tear I ever shed last year.
What is so hard about mental illness is that, unlike when you have broken your leg and you can clearly see all the “broken” bits, when your brain is broken it is so difficult to distinguish between what is you, your personality and what is the illness. This is one of the many reasons mental health is such a taboo subject and people feel uncomfortable talking about it because they don’t want to be thought of as crazy.
The health care workers who helped me most were non-judgemental and not patronising in any way shape or form. They listened and understood.
Mental illness is so so, so, so common, all of us will experience it at some point in our lives whether for ourselves or through a loved one. Ruby Wax, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson have all suffered and spoken out about it, they are the tip of the iceberg. What we need to do is get educated and we need to talk because that is where true happiness and hope comes from: talking, communication and connection.
We need to get mental health education on the curriculum to give our children a future where they too are unafraid to speak out and ask for help. 1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness: that is 25% of the world’s population. It is staggering and we need to arm our children with knowledge, with compassion and build a world for them where the word “stigma” is extinct.
Life is too short, too precious not to talk, not to tell the truth. So please, join everyone who has already done it and show your support:
Selfie+post-it+donation+share = #itaffectsme
Text SUPPORT to 70660 to donate £3 to Mind