With it now estimated that one in four people in the UK will suffer a mental illness at some point in their lives, added to the fact that 450 million are suffering around the world, it is surprising that mental illness still has a shame around it. There are numerous reasons why this is the case, the traditional British stiff upper lip, the lack of education but perhaps more importantly there is still a huge amount of stigma surrounding mental health.
Recently, and something I hugely welcome, there has been much more acceptance over mental health and there have also been some much publicised campaigns against these stigma’s. While campaigns like Time to Change have undoubtedly played a massive role, celebrities such as Frankie Sanford and Alistair Campbell have also contributed to this change, by publically discussing their battles.
People with depression, anxiety and any of the other mental illnesses, are also made to feel “crazy”, and are shamed into feeling like a failure, but when successful celebrities discuss their battles, it leads to these perceptions being questioned.
Now I’m a good one to talk, because up until very recently I too hid my battle away. I felt embarrassed, I felt like some sort of freak and I felt as if I was failing. It was only upon learning how common mental illness is, and seeing other people talked about it, that I realised It was my duty to talk about it too.
I thought that today I would challenge some of the incorrect stigmas that exist. This only seems particularly relevant when you consider the provocative headline that graced the front page of the sun recently, that claimed “1200 people killed by mental patients”. Hum.
Violence. I’m starting with this one because it is one that seems particularly relevant given the recent “mental patient costume” debacle and the Sun’s headline, but it is also one that seems particularly prevalent.
Despite the vast progress that has been made regarding awareness and mental health, for many of the public there is still a line that runs from mental illness to violence. The word “mental” has become synonymous with an axe-wielding murderer”.
The facts however, simply do not back this up because the majority of the people that are ill with mental illness are not violent, and the majority of murderers are not mentally ill.
So why do people feel believe see this link? It’s really simple, the media. Whether it be films, books or papers, the media love to draw a direct link between mental illness and violence. You only need to look at the Sun article referenced earlier to understand what I mean. In the same way that they cling onto terrorist attacks, the media love a dramatic story and therefore whenever someone who is ill commits a violent act, they like to milk it for all it is worth.
While all murders are awful, and there is never an excuse, in the rare situation when a murder can be linked to a persons mental sate, why do we not blame the sate? There have been hundreds of cases were the perpetrator has been let down by the system, and in these situations the person can be helped and the act can be prevented. The truth is that there is still a long way to go when it comes to treating mental illness in this country, whether it be counselling or medication, we do nowhere near enough. Click here for an example.
Misuse of the word “depressed”.
I think is something that I have mentioned before, but there is a huge difference between being down and suffering from depression.
From time to time everyone has a bad day, but having depression is far worse that just having a bad day. A bad day can be caused by numerous different things, whether it be your teacher telling you off or getting wet on your way to work but depression has no obvious cause, and can creep up when you least expect it, lingering for days and days.
For a full explanation of depression, please click here.
An idea that it is self-inflicted
As I have just mentioned, depression can creep up on you when you least expect it and there is very often no direct cause. Therefore, as you can imagine, it is equally as hard to pull yourself out of it. People telling you to “pull out of it” do not help!
Due to a lack of understanding there is still this idea that you can somehow pull yourself out of depression, but this is where “depressed” and “depression” are getting mixed up.
Depression makes you feel lethargic, heavy and you have no interest in doing anything, and there is very little you can do to bring yourself out of it.
Yes, they are all celebrities and yes they are all beautiful, but all of them have also admitted to suffering from mental illness. Do they look crazy to you? Nope, I don’t think this needs any further discussion!
So if you currently are suffering, or alternatively have suffered, from a mental illness, join me in tweeting this phrase- “I (have) suffer from a mental illness, and I am going to talk about it. I’m not crazy, I’m ill. #timetotalk”.