"Coping mechanisms?"

As with most things, there are both healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms. An example of a healthy coping mechanism is keeping a diary, whereas an example of an unhealthy coping mechanism is self-harm.

Now, I want to look at one specific example of an unhealthy coping mechanism that is arguably more harmful than self-harm; putting on a "brave face". The reason I believe that this is more harmful than self-harm is that self-harm, whilst certainly not without risks, is a method of emotional release, whereas putting on a "brave face" allows emotions and stress hormones to build up. It is my belief that this has the potential to culminate in suicidal thoughts and, potentially, a suicide attempt.

The reason that this is currently playing on my mind is I recently saw a comment on a post about mental health on Facebook saying "if you can't seem to lift your mood, just laugh anyway", as well as a rather aggressive request that the person who posted the link to an article on mental health "stop posting stuff about mental illness". Ignoring the request to stop posting about mental illness, I addressed the "just laugh anyway" remark, pointing out that it wasn't conducive to a healthy discussion surrounding mental health. When the person came back to me, they said that it was their coping mechanism.

At this point, I left the conversation, but I've spent a good few days trying to work out why that bothered me. I've finally figured it out, and it's that laughing and ignoring the presence of mental illness seems a little like putting a sticky plaster on a gunshot wound. It won't stop the bleeding, there's a risk of infection, and there's no telling what damage is being done internally, ultimately risking things becoming far worse before the issue is addressed.

I believe there's additional risk in announcing that that's your chosen coping mechanism on a public platform during a discussion about mental health, the reason being that it poses the potential for other people to think "well if it's working for them...". Externally, it may seem to be working, but like I say, we don't know what's really going on.

In conclusion, I feel like putting on a "brave face" is tantamount to someone self-harming and wearing long sleeves to hide the "evidence". The issue isn't immediately obvious and the person smiling or pulling down their sleeves a little further may not realise that what they're doing is actually dangerous. It's something we need to discourage, but we need to be very careful not to create or perpetuate feelings of shame, which is easier said than done, but it's worth the effort if it saves a life.