What Mental Health Really Is

The idea of “mental health” gets a lot more airtime these days then it ever seemed to do when I was younger. And as somebody whose mental health struggles have far outweighed any other kind of struggle I’ve had, you’d think I’d be happy about this.

Actually, I’m not. And I’ll tell you why. (And before you ask, it’s not because I’m just in a bad mood today!)

The way I see it, mental health – just like Movember, and Black Lives Matter, and climate change – has been mugged by the trendy and the “want to be seen as woke” crowd.

The “in” thing these days is to compartmentalise your life – to look at it the way a baker looks at a recipe. You take a bunch of ingredients, you add them together, and they produce something more than the sum of their parts.

The recipe for a good life might include a nice place to live. A partner to love. Kids to care for. Rewarding work. A holiday every year. And then, if you’re lucky enough, and you get all the other parts just right, then tacked on the end of all this, like the proverbial icing on the cake might be… mental health.

Well, the problem here is that mental health isn’t the icing. It’s the fucking oven. Without an oven, you don’t have a cake. Without a baseline level of mental health, you don’t have a life.

Mental health isn’t some kind of luxury – something those who can afford to add to their lives when things are good, or to prevent them getting worse. Mental health is your life. It’s the very foundation on which everything else in your life rests.

Sadly, there is still a stigma around mental health “issues.” That is changing – albeit very slowly – and I’m grateful for that. But the far bigger change that needs to come is the society-wide realisation of what mental health truly is.

It’s not just “issues” or “problems” or “difficulties” or things you can get diagnosed… Mental health is life itself.

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