I’ve seen a lot of flack directed at awareness weeks. I can see they are problematic and can be viewed as a cheap way of acknowledging an issue without addressing the root causes / issues underpinning them.
Particularly around mental health there is a justifiable anger about focus on certain more ‘acceptable’ forms over others and the gaping void between intent and outcome of ‘talk to someone’.
Awareness weeks are a chance for people with lived experience to come forward, talk about it and encourage others to either talk of their own if ready or seek support.
Support comes in many forms and many people are not aware or have the energy to hunt around for them. Signal boosting these services is an important part of addressing that.
What can sometimes get lost amongst the swirl of awareness weeks is their themes and how they intersect.
I’m conscious of awareness week fatigue, that’s why I feel there should be more co-ordination. The issues faced by bereaved parents in accessing mental health support are in many ways similar to those experienced by other groups.
All of these conversations linking together increases the call for improvements so people don’t fall down cracks when it comes to mental health support.
It feels like a competition and the whataboutery faced by any group asking for improvements is real but ultimately is an unhelpful distraction.
There are links between these weeks and aims. They are not in competition.
For those with lived experience, talking about it comes at personal risk and cost. I have seen many active bereaved parents in the #babyloss community really struggle with the demands of their work to prevent more people joining the club, and supporting those that need it.
At the same time, bereaved parents like me face the double of an awareness week and anniversaries of loss.
It takes its toll and while I understand frustration that awareness week are sticking plasters, awareness weeks are part of a wider continual effort to shift the conversation.
We have seen people taking their own life where they have not had support for their losses. I have heard accounts of desperate parents with PTSD and suicidal ideation turned away from MH services as it fell within 6 months of loss.
Yes, #BLAW2019 is a chance for us to say their names and speak of our lost babies, it is also about addressing the points of criticism around awareness weeks ignoring the gap between words and actions.