It may sound clichéd, but there’s a good saying to live your life by: “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” This sentiment is particularly key in the face of the ‘perfect self’ presented on social media. Sure, the streams of brunches, designer clothing and exclusive launches look every inch the ideal life, but you don’t know the mundane struggles or potential torment that the person behind the photo is coping with.
Heads Together is a new campaign to ‘end the stigma around mental health’, spearheaded by Kate Middleton and Princes William and Harry. Seeing the mental health problems people faced when undertaking their charity work, the Royals’ began the campaign to work with a number of organisations - such as CALM, Mind, and the Anna Freud Centre - with the premise that ‘two heads are better than one’, encouraging people to talk about their struggles rather than suffer alone. The campaign’s YouTube channel hosts a series videos of prominent figures talking to each other about their own experiences with anxiety, suicide, depression, and more.
Model Adwoa Aboah, who has walked and posed for fashion giants like Calvin Klein, H&M, Fendi, and Dior, and mother Camilla Lowther, founder of artist management agency CLM, feature in one emotional film, where they discuss Adwoa’s depression and suicide attempt. “You’d been to Glastonbury, and you came to my office and said, “I’m exhausted,”” Lowther recounts. “It was the first time I thought, ‘something’s wrong’, so we all sat down and had a talk, and that was the start of it really.”
Aboah has been very open about her personal journey of drugs use, depression, and recovery – a refreshing and important voice in an industry that can all too easily slip into glamorous facades. “The whole time I just felt more and more tired, but I thought, ‘I’ve got to keep up the pretence, keep it together.’” Lowther reiterates the mistake we often make in assuming that because from the outside someone’s life is seemingly perfect, enviable even, that they are ok: “Look at you, you’re beautiful, you have an amazing house, life is great. I just thought you had a problem with drugs, until you tried to kill yourself.”
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime, while Mind reports that the number of people with someone close to them with a mental illness increased from 58% in 2009 to 65% in 2014. While this could be seen as a progress in communication – people are being more open with each other – nearly half of those surveyed said they would feel uncomfortable telling an employer about a mental health problem. Clearly, we still have work to do to eradicate the stigma and shame around it.
Adwoa acknowledges the difficulty in, but vital need to talk about mental health, telling her mother: “When you’re that unhappy, it’s scary, it’s dark and horrible. I didn’t know how to tell someone that I was depressed. I went to meetings and talked and talked. Now I’m here and I’m happy, and I didn’t know it was going to be something that simple, to talk.” The Heads Together videos show other celebrities discussing this, from Ruby Wax talking to her husband, to cricketer Freddie Flintoff chatting with Professor Green, another mental health advocate.
These videos are important. Seeing both men and women talk about their personal struggles shatters the illusion of the ‘perfect life’, opening up the dialogue and showing people new ways to discuss their battles. Communication is key. Hopefully, with campaigns like Heads Together, we will see a real difference in the lives of those who suffer.