Mental health makes you human, not unwell

On World Mental Health Day (October 10), Dr Ilan Ben-Zion, a Clinical Psychologist in London, blogs about the #ihavementalhealth awareness campaign he launched on the @NHS account earlier this year.

I’m not brave. I’m not speaking out. I’m just a human, talking about being human.

Having worked in mental health services for around 10 years, I am constantly surprised by how many people confuse the term ‘mental health’ with ‘mental health difficulties’. Countless people have told me that they don’t have mental health, because they think it means a mental health problem. However, having an arm doesn’t mean you have pain in your arm. Having mental health doesn’t mean you have a mental health difficulty.

First let’s get things straight. Mental health is something we *all* have. The term mental health is a neutral one. If someone tells you that they have mental health, they aren’t telling you anything about whether it’s good or not so good.

picture of Dr Ilan Ben-Zion holding a message that reads: Mental Health: This is something we all have. It is a neutral term and does not mean we have good or bad mental health. If you have blood, you have mental health. The #ihavementalhealth campaign is to raise awareness that we all have mental heal. Sometimes it is good and at other times we may have mental "ill" health when we have any kind of mental health difficulty. Sometimes we may need support, at other time we may not. We all have mental health and if we can acknowlege that mental health is something we share, it may reduce stigma and be easier to talk about with others when it is not so good and we are struggling. My name is Ilan and #ihavementalhealth

Now here is the issue. We all know there’s stigma around having mental health difficulties, so if people continue believing that mental health = mental health difficulties, it makes it very difficult for us to have any sort of conversation about mental health in the first place.

Let’s compare this to physical health for a moment. I’m sure you’d agree that we all have physical health. Maybe sometimes it’s good and other times it’s not so good, but either way, we all have it and we’re happy to acknowledge that. Most people are more than happy to tell you about their sprained ankle, are proud of the sling they wear, or crutches that support them. This might be because we all understand that we have physical health and that it changes at various points during the days, months and years of our lives. By acknowledging that we have an arm, it makes it easier to talk about when it’s in pain.

What many aren’t happy to tell you about are the ‘aches and pains’ they experience in their minds. This is because mental health is often misunderstood and not everyone appreciates that we all have it (whether good or not so good). Therefore, it’s not talked about as openly as physical health, and the stigma remains.

The #ihavementalhealth campaign aims to raise awareness that we all have mental health. Sometimes it is good and at other times it might not be. Sometimes we may need support, at other times we may not. If we can acknowledge that mental health is something everyone has, it may reduce stigma and be easier to talk about when it’s not so good and we’re struggling. It may also help us talk more openly about what we can do to look after and protect our mental health.

Therefore, as part of the campaign, I am asking you to spread this message by posting your name and #ihavementalhealth on social media (Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn etc), with a picture of you if you can!

When starting this campaign, I was asked whether this is just about language, and getting people to use the right words. It’s more than that, it’s about people’s lives. It’s the ability to discuss your difficulties with others, to access support where needed and to provide it where someone else could benefit. Understanding that mental health is something we all share and is ok to talk about, can be the difference between isolation and comfort.

My name is Ilan and #ihavementalhealth. Follow Dr Ilan Ben-Zion on Twitter.

Dr Ilan Ben-Zion

Ilan is a Clinical Psychologist working at St Pancras Rehabilitation Unit – Inpatient Wards and Hertfordshire Neurological Service – Community team – Outpatients

I feel very privileged to be able to say I love what I do and always have, ever since I started volunteering for ChildLine in 2007. Following this, I’ve had experience working with a wide variety of individuals including children, young people, adults, older adults, military personnel, individuals with learning disabilities, neurodevelopmental disorders and neurological conditions.

Currently, I’m based across two teams, one at St Pancras Rehabilitation Unit, where we support individuals to recover from various difficulties from strokes and brain injuries, to falls and occasionally unknown conditions. In my other post, I work at Hertfordshire Neurological Service where we see individuals as outpatients in order to support them with a variety of neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease and strokes.

I am passionate about mental health, as this something we all share and an area where there is real potential to make a positive impact in the world. I hope the #ihavementalhealthcampaign will contribute towards helping people better understand this part of themselves.

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  1. MRSR says:

    My husband has been waiting 13 months for cbt therapy from our local mental health access team after being diagnosed with several anxiety, depression and PTSD…he has been hospitalised several times and still he is waiting, may be another month at least before he gets to see someone..

    • NHS England says:

      We’re sorry to hear about your experience, please contact the mental health service that your husband has been referred to understand your wait. If you need support please talk to your local mental health access team. Sorry we cannot help further, wishing you the best.

      The NHS England Digital Team