“If I only had a pot on it they’d know. If I had a pot on my leg, people would open the door, wait for me, help me on the stairs, if I had a pot on it.” I hear this line or one very similar to it quite regularly.It’s generally coupled with, “Why can’t they understand?”In 1986 Marjorie Wallace broke new ground with her series of articles “The Forgotten Illness”, sadly it’s still forgotten. It’s not only forgotten but in some bizarre way, it’s become hidden when really it should be on everyone’s lips. Present statistics say that 1 in 3 of us will report to our GP with problems of mental ill health within the year. That in itself is a pretty unhealthy statistic but if we examine the truth behind it we see quite rapidly that it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. If we think about mental ill health the things that come to mind are things like psychosis and bipolar affective disorder, somehow we forget anxiety and depression, overlook O.C.D. and panic. If we take the 3 exemplar people from above and look a little closer we find that yes, person 1 has indeed had a bad time but they have somehow found the strength and resilience to go to their GP and ask for help.Person 2 is the lucky one of the set, she has a terrible time at work and plenty of mornings when she doesn’t think she can get out of bed but, she has a loving partner, friends and colleagues who are the safety net. People around who make sure she does not fall all the way down and will carry her when she is struggling – she may not go to the GP but she is still unwell. Person 3 goes home every evening after having a reasonably successful day at work, getting things done and having the occasional laugh– occasionally. The people around him see he’s ‘a bit moody’ but that’s about it. Every night though he sits down to dinner and washes it down with a bottle of red – it’s convivial, a good year, the wife has a glass; not a problem. Following this a healthy sized night cap and off to bed. Morning survival routine: paracetamol and strong coffee. It’s not a problem though, doesn’t need a drink, just haven’t had a dry night since 1989, why should you if it’s not a problem? So 3 is ill too. This is an over simplification of the situation but the situation remains. We will all suffer with one form of mental ill health at some point in our lives and in remains, in most cases, an invisible illness. When we are low our self-care may slip, we may lose sleep or sleep too much but we will look like us despite the struggle we are going through. One of the main things that keeps mental ill health hidden or invisible is the stigma attached to it. In the first instance we may be too proud to admit that we’re struggling, we may not want to say that we’re feeling low or worrying about everything because our friends may think we’re daft. It often takes incredible strength and bravery to ask for help and the people who do so should be admired for their resilience. So many of us will go through life without the ability to ask for help because, ‘we should cope….that’s what you do.’ If we had a pot on people would see, they’d offer help, go a little slower. If we had a ‘pot’ on we would not be telling ourselves that we should cope…it’s what we do, we’d slow down, sit and rest. The odd thing is though we all have these moments which can in some cases drag on for years but our ‘pot’ remains invisible or at least hidden. Recently I asked people to offer help, to ask in a very Lancastrian way, “Y’ alright?” This month can I ask that we take ownership of how we feel, if things are too much or you just don’t feel right, be open and ask for help. It’s with this honesty that we start to remove the stigma from struggle; it’s with this honesty that we start to make ourselves OK.