Dialogues for Mental Health Week: Humanising the Discourse

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and in recognition of that, we at Libertas asked our readers to participate in our Humanising Mental Health Challenge. Asking them to contribute to a discussion with short letters reflecting on their experiences with mental health and sharing their thoughts on the challenges around mental health within Europe. 

We have had an amazing response, both from experienced contributors and from new voices in the Libertas family. We are pleased to be able to share them with you, in the hope that the voices of young people across Europe can help to start a wider conversation. Not only around how far we still have to go in recognising the importance of mental health in all areas of life; but also on the importance of ensuring that there is effective healthcare provision for mental health needs across Europe.

 

Our first set of contributions summarise the current social challenges around the perception of mental health. Both Sean and Sylvia’s letters reflect on society's ignorance of mental health needs and contrast them with our attitudes to physical health. Silvia also reminds us that it is okay to let others help us when we need it – an important message for all of us to hear.

 

“The preservation of physical health has been used consistently throughout history as a fundamental marker for the development of civilisation. The advance of mental health treatments, however, has too often been resigned to the footnotes of medical history.

This was a mistake. Health is, fundamentally, a holistic principle. Contrary to what was historically believed, physical and mental health are inextricably linked, a fact that we are now coming to understand. 

In the throes of the modern mental health crisis, we must place mental health as equal to physical health in terms of provision of care, funding, education and, crucially, policy.”

Sean Bennett

 

“In the course of a few years, mental health has transformed from a hidden ailment to a slumbering beast that creeps up on many of us. And yet, it continues to be viewed as a sign of weakness. 

In a society where appearances are everything, and happiness and success are celebrated, the weight of mental health concerns can become even more burdensome. Ironically, we are quick to attend to a broken limb, but we are afraid to reveal it when we are on fire or unable to sleep through the night. 

Let this be a reminder that when the world comes crashing down at your feet, it is perfectly fine to let others help you pick up the pieces.”

Silvia Fernandez

 

Our second set of contributions focus on the importance of increasing awareness of mental health issues and improving the accessibility of services. One letter, from an anonymous contributor, reflects on how we can develop effective services. Whilst Riccardo’s letter comments on the complexity of mental health and the need to increase awareness and understanding.

 

“As the stigma around mental health issues has slowly been eroded by education and transparency, it has become apparent just how widely people have been suffering in silence across Europe.

Our mental health services were never designed to cope with such high demand. These systems are fundamentally insufficient to provide society with the support it needs in this modern age.

The solution is not to throw money at the problem, nor to make unsustainable promises about new medical staff and institutions. We must build new services designed for everyone because mental health isn’t a minority problem, it’s a society problem.”

Anonymous

 

“Awareness is important.

When you face mental illness, you feel isolated. Some people think they know exactly what you're going through, and they're often wrong, some others say they don't understand what is going on with you, and sadly they're often right.

Categories and narratives are important.

When people don't understand what you're going through, they help you communicate with others. When you don't understand what you're going through, they help you communicate with yourself.

But categories are social products and we are collectively responsible for crafting, shaping and disseminating them.

We are responsible for making them accessible to everyone.”

Riccardo Cravero

 

Following on, we have a powerful anonymous contribution reflecting on the danger that poor local mental health services can have for individuals in crisis.

 

“Years ago, a friend was telling me about their experience with the local mental health service. They had been in a state of crisis, fearing for their safety as thoughts of self-harm and suicide plagued them. They were, clearly, an extremely vulnerable person in a state of extreme distress and risk.

They told all of this to the hotline that they had called.

“We have an appointment available in 6 weeks. Would that be ok?”

No.

No, that would not be ok.

“By then I’ll either be ok or I’ll be dead.” they replied.

They survived.

Many others did not.”

Anonymous

 

As well as reflecting on the need to improve services and perceptions, our contributions from Sorcha and Nick also discuss the relationship between our work life and our mental health. Sorcha’s letter reflects on her own experiences with burnout, whilst Nick offers some important ideas on creating environments that prioritise mental health within our youth organisations.

“Mental health is something we all have, but never seem to pay attention to until we need help. The reality is that our mental health is something which we tend to de-prioritise as our to-do lists can be a mile long and we often perceive it to be less urgent. 

Alas, our mental health is the baseline for all success in our personal and professional lives, so it is quite the contrary. It is when we hit burnout, or when our physical health intervenes to give us a harsh warning, that we realise quite how serious and essential mindful care of our mental wellbeing becomes. 

This has happened to me before, and my priority list now starts with care for my mental health, and only then everything else which needs to get done.”

Sorcha Ní Chonghaile

 

“For many of us in youth-led organisations, especially volunteers, the line between passion and overwork blurs easily. We dive into action, fuelled by the desire to make a difference, often compromising our mental well-being. But how can meaningful youth involvement exist without self-preservation?

We must address this silent toll on young leaders. Sustainable activism means fostering environments where mental health is prioritised, not sacrificed. Let’s champion policies and organisational cultures that support regular breaks, provide mental health resources, and cultivate an atmosphere where "I need a pause" is as commendable as "I can do more."

Let’s redefine dedication without detriment.”

Nick Xifaras

 

Finally, we will leave you with this poem sent in by Evelina. A powerful statement on the humanity of mental health and a reflection on our individual value in the world.

 

“I am human, a symphony of thoughts, dreams, and desires,

Longing for a realm where safety and respect never tire.

With emotions that cascade, sometimes overflow,

Bearing the world's weight, yet refusing to bow low.

For in the rhythm of my highs and lows,

Lies the pulse of life, a story that flows.

Each beat, a testament to my being,

Intense, vivid, unyielding, and freeing.

I am not a flat line, but a vibrant surge,

A portrayal of humanity's urge.

In every feeling, in every breath, I stand,

A living narrative, a masterpiece unplanned.”

Evelina Dannert

 

The range of themes and ideas shared by our contributors emphasises the sheer diversity in the way we perceive mental health. However, every letter raises a key point. All of us must take mental health more seriously and work to improve perceptions, services, and understanding of mental health across Europe. Including within ourselves. 

If you have been at all affected by any of the issues raised by this article, and would like to access support, help can be found by calling your country’s helpline available here or by visiting Mental Health Europe’s website where you can find more information. Once again, we would like to thank all of our contributors for sharing their thoughts and perspectives.

 

 

 

The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) alone. These views do not necessarily reflect those of LYMEC.

 

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

Next Event

June 28 2024

Liberal Communicators' Network - youth edition 2024

This event is set to take place in Lille, France, between 28 and 30 June 2024.    +++ Registrations are closed +++   This event is organised for yo...

More Details

author

posted on

May 16 2024

Leave your comment

Recent Posts

Dialogues for Mental Health Week: Humanising the Discourse

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and in recognition of that, we at Libertas asked our readers to participate in our Humanising Mental Health

May 16 2024

Europe, Do You Still Remember Ukraine?

Ukraine.  Although this country's name rhymes perfectly with the word "rain," this country finds itself in nothing short of a storm. Think of any analogies you like: a sump...

May 14 2024

Redefining European Politics: The Rise of the Triad and Fall of Bipartisanship

Let’s talk about bipartisanship. This is a political scenario whereby only ...

May 03 2024