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Mental Health Day


It is the 10th of October and it is Mental Health Day. For us at HorseBack, every day is Mental Health Day. This is for two reasons. The first is obvious: we work with people who face mental health challenges. We know depression and extreme anxiety and suicidal ideation and unremitting emotional anguish. We’ve seen every single symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We’ve counted them all in, and we’ve counted them all out.

The second reason is a little more nuanced. It’s that we – the whole team here – don’t think of mental health cracks and breaks and crises as other. They are not out there, at some distant place in the world which must be visited. They are, literally, at our front door. The vast majority of the people we help have some kind of difficulty with their mental health. Some of us know it ourselves. It is a part of our daily working life.

The reason that there is a Mental Health Day is to raise awareness. This is crucial, because it means that the general public start to know that mental health problems are not strange or odd. They will hit one in four Britons in any given year. The modern world comes with a boatload of stresses and strains, and sometimes the mind gives out under that pressure. In some ways, it is amazing that anyone can get through life without some depression or anxiety or a period of intense stress.

Awareness is important because it reduces shame. Shame is so often seen in people who are going through some kind of mental health predicament. They are prone to see this as a form of weakness or failing, and they will try to hide it or cover it up. This can lead to isolation, which makes the problem worse. Awareness says: this is not freakishly weird, this happens to a quarter of the population, you are not alone. It also says that there is help available. There are people out there who understand. There are ways to bring your troubled mind back to calm and health and wellbeing.

At HorseBack, we try to spread awareness, because that awareness is part of our usual life, and it’s made such a difference to everyone who works here. We don’t judge mental health problems, nor are we afraid of them. We also don’t define a person by their mental health. We don’t think: that is a depressed person, or a traumatised person, or an anxious person. We see a complex, capable human being who is, at this moment in time, suffering from depression or anxiety or trauma. That is not all they are. The trauma and depression and anxiety do not wipe out all their brilliant qualities, although they can mask them. So what we are always looking for is the person underneath the symptoms, the person who still has courage and determination and a sense of humour. We sometimes think that the work we do is giving people back their true selves. (That’s why we use horses in our work. Horses are absolutely dazzling at seeing past the surface to the true self.)

That, in our experience, is what awareness can do. It changes the way you look at people and at the world. It stops easy judgment in its tracks. It invites compassion and empathy. It opens up complexity, rather than slapping on reductive labels.

So, if you do one thing on this Mental Health Day, think of raising your awareness. Do a bit of Googling. Pay a visit to the Mind website. Stop and think about your own mental health. The more information you have, the more you know, the less you need to be afraid.

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We do not rely on government funding so any donations will greatly assist with the running of our charity.

We do not rely on government funding so any donations will greatly assist with the running of our charity.