Earlier this month I watched a BBC documentary, ‘Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out’. Jesy is a member of the globally successful girl group Little Mix. It struck me deeply as an extremely important topic to be discussed, In the documentary, Jesy discusses and explores her experience with body image and depression, after experiencing heinous trolling on social media during and after her X Factor journey in 2011. The most severe result of which was her suicide attempt. Jesy discussed how this vicious cyber bullying broke down her sense of self, she even referred to herself in the past tense on X factor as ‘the old Jesy’ and how she used to hate ‘her’. Until the end of the documentary, when she looked back at old pictures with a body image therapist, she had not been able to bring herself to see any old videos or photos of herself from before she lost weight.
Whilst watching this, I experienced a deep sense of sadness and disbelief that any person would have to experience such abuse, but ultimately I felt this documentary was an amazing thing to have been created. Since its release there has been a call from thousands of viewers, to have the documentary shown in schools and universities across the country.
So, with the approach of anti-bullying week, I felt this was the best time to discuss the importance of dialogue; how we talk about, and communicate with each other, on issues surrounding mental health and bullying. I am not going to talk about the importance of being kind, and treating someone the way you would want to be treated, because quite frankly anyone who has to be told that, or acts in any other way, isn’t worth giving the time to. You should not need to be told to care for people, or feel compassion for those around you, that is just what a normal person should feel. What I do want to convey, is that we as a community to do our best to provide an environment in which people feel they can talk about their experiences.
While most people understand the sensitivity of such topics, there can still be a sense of people down-playing the severity of such issues, or even making jokes about someone being depressed, or anxious. While comments such as these can be viewed as nothing more than a joke, it trivialises important issues. Jokes or comments should not stop someone feeling as though they can talk about what they are going through, but It very often does. The fear of judgement, is one I feel is felt quite heavy surrounding mental health, especially in schools.
This issue of individuals feeling unable to talk about their mental health is not just present in schools, if anything it is a symptom of wider society, there is still a lingering stigma surrounding mental health, in that it is seen as not of equal importance as physical health. This problem is present mostly in men, with men accounting for three-quarters of death by suicide in the uk in 2018. This is heartbreaking, as if we as a society created a more open dialogue about the importance of being open about how we feel, and that mental wellness is just as important as physical health, less people would feel trapped and as if the only way out is suicide.
I know in talking about suicide I have jumped straight to the the extreme, but it is the reality created by lack of healthy open dialogue in society. For too many people pride gets in the way of seeking help, there is everything to be said for perseverance and strength of character, but not when it comes to mental health. And that I suppose, is my key message, that getting help is not ‘giving in’ or being ‘weak’, it is the exact opposite. Admitting you are struggling is quite possibly one of the hardest ad bravest things a person can do, at the time it can seem daunting and like nothing will help, but as seen in Jesy Nelson’s documentary just talking about it with others who may be feeling the same, or reflecting on how you have felt in the past can be extremely therapeutic in itself.
So please, even if your way of starting dialogue is simply talking to a friend about feeling under pressure, do it, the more people talk about mental health, hopefully, the more it will be normalised. So those who in dire need of help, will no longer feel afraid or ashamed to seek it. No one should ever be left to deal with their problems alone, and in silence, when that happens we are failing them as a community.