There has been a growing awareness of mental health issues. Thanks to mainstream media, mental health stories have been cast into the spotlight bringing much needed attention in this important area. (After all, if your lose your mind, nothing else really matters. So naturally the mind and brain are very important things to be cognizant of.)
There were hardly any local, personal stories on mental illness and recovery when we first started. The few inspiring gems we found were largely in the form of print biography.
Things are vastly different now with more cross-sector collaborations, accompanied by a groundswell of mental health initiatives, thanks to the steady drive for peer-orientated programmes and campaigns led by NCSS and other mental health VWOs.
Mental health conversations are picking up the pace, with personal stories gaining traction.
But like all good conversations, however, talking about the issues at hand is only half the success. We need to also listen in to what is being said and also, what is unsaid.
In our zeal to flesh out mental illness through personal story, the quest for “story showcasing” might accomplish quite the opposite effect of confronting mental health stigma.
We need to understand that stories, like the people who live in them, evolve and need to be given due respect and appreciation. They need to time, space, and care in order to grow and flourish.
So, whenever we ask for “stories” in our pursuit of passion projects, campaigns, and programme KPIs, we need to bear this in mind:
It would be reductionist to treat people as nothing more than their story (or stories), which in itself is stigmatising.
What can we do to avoid this “losing the forest for the trees” problem then?
- Take a genuine interest in knowing the person beyond the story.
- Keep them in the loop on how their stories are treated and responded to, if possible.
- Ensure they are emotionally supported in the retelling of their journey. In other words, prioritise and respect their wellbeing.
By all means, continue shining that light on mental health stories. We all need them in our struggle for wholeness. They are powerful, honest, real, and collectively, they create a more resilient mental health ecosystem.
The stories we share on The Tapestry Project do not promise a “happily ever after”. The only promise we make is that we will continue to champion these authentic narratives and the people behind them. Many come from a place of pain, but also of great courage. Every Tapestry contributor we connected with was determined to step out and share what they had kept a secret for months, some even years.
And for that, we are honoured and humbled to be the platform that empowers them to do so.