The Onus – We’re Here For You
In June last year, I tackled a subject that I thought was very uncomfortable yet very pertinent to mental health struggles: the effect of putting the onus on people. In that article, I acknowledged that so often we mean well – we’re here for you, if you need help then all you have to do is call/message/shout – but sometimes that can actually lead to people being more isolated or feeling as though their concerns are not valid. Basically, it can be highly damaging . Check out this snippet of my point:
The Onus Problem
What’s the problem? You’re offering them your support, you’re telling them to contact you if they need the help…so isn’t that a good thing?
Do you know what? It’s great, it really is. I’m pleased that you’re there for your friend or family member. That being said, there’s something you need to consider.
Can they talk about it?
For a lot of people going through mental health struggles, opening up and talking about it is one of the hardest things to do. Every time my friend struggles and spirals, the first thing she does is hide because she doesn’t feel she can ask for help. I’m the same: I find it hard to say “I’m struggling, please help me”. It’s just not something that comes easily.
Are they likely to talk about it? Not always, no.
Realistically, there is another reason that we have to be mindful of when putting the onus on people, one that might be far more dangerous than the one I mentioned in the post itself…
The Onus Effect
For some, the effect that the onus has on them is simply what I said in my previous post about it: that they feel like they can’t ask for help yet they really should be asking and, so, they beat themselves up for not being able to ask. It can lead to additional stress and frustration and worse.
But that’s not the effect I want to talk about.
I think this one is actually much worse.
For some people…it can make them feel as though they deserve it.
Let me expand on that a little. See, for some people, they wouldn’t feel like they were able to approach others and ask for the help that they need. As a result, they wouldn’t get that help because people are putting the onus on them, making them speak up for help and thus trapping them in that cycle of needing help yet being unable to ask for it so not getting it. Moreover, when no one asks them how they are, if they need help or makes that effort to contact them, it starts them off in a cycle of increasingly negative thinking.
Check out Aimee W’s thoughts on the matter:
Yup! I had someone ask me if I had any support, I said no, then they never replied! People only wanna be the hero when it’s easy.
— Aimee W (@92aims) August 12, 2017
I just keep coming to the conclusion that I deserve this, that’s why no one cares. wish #Mentalhealth was taken as seriously as physical
— Aimee W (@92aims) August 12, 2017
Realistically, it’s not an uncommon perception for people struggling with mental health issues, as I am and as Aimee W is. I’ll be completely honest with you, it’s something I’ve thought plenty of times. I’ve mentioned before about how people have just cut me off and I’ve not been able to bring myself to be the first to message and that, in turn, has led me to think that I’m not worth it.
That I deserve this…
What Should We Do?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we need to stop putting the onus on other people. If someone was suffering from cancer or from another physical health condition that left them in hospital, we wouldn’t be expecting them to contact us if they needed anything. No, we’d be checking up on them, asking what we could do to help.
So why should it be different for mental health?
That’s right: why should it be different for mental health??
The answer is: it shouldn’t!
Really, we should be asking people with mental health difficulties how they’re doing. We should be making that contact. Yes, we all have other things that we’re trying to do because everyone has a life to live, everyone has priorities that need taking care of but still…it takes five minutes (if that!) to send someone a message.
1 in 4 people in the UK struggle with mental illness. Do you know what that means? That means there are 3 people for everyone 1 of those 4 who could be checking up on them, making sure that everything is alright. Unless, of course, those 3 people don’t care.
Please don’t be one of those people.
As I’ve said before, reaching out takes 1-2 minutes and it could save a life.
People don’t deserve cancer or leukaemia, they don’t deserve mental illness either.
So please don’t make them feel as though they do.