Picture this: You walk into a restaurant and sit down with friends. You mention you’ve broken a rib. People lean towards you concerned. Questions abound. Are you all right? Is it very painful? How did you do it? Can they be of help?

Now picture this: You walk into a restaurant and sit down with friends. You mention you’ve spent the day in bed sobbing intermittently. People pull away. Questions abound but remain unasked. My God, is she crazy? Will she make a scene? Wonder if she’d notice if I moved that steak knife out of her reach?

Look, I know this might be an exaggeration. I know your friends mightn’t be so callous. But I also know a mentally ill person who once said, “I wish I had cancer. At least then people could more easily relate to me.” Don’t take this the wrong way. He wasn’t making light of cancer or those who suffer from it. He was just pointing out that people are more comfortable with people suffering from physical illnesses rather than mental ones.

One reason we react so instinctively to a person experiencing a physical complaint is because we’ve all experienced them. We don’t have to have to be physically ill at the time to empathise with someone who is physically ill but mental illness is another matter. If we’re healthy we fear putting both feet firmly in our mouth by asking what we think is a dumb question. And those of us who suffer don’t make it any easier as we hide mutely behind our masks of normality. No wonder we’re all confused….

Mental and physical health. Let’s look at the connection:

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