This week’s post was prompted by Time to Change, who take the lead in the fight to end mental health discrimination and stigma. So today, I want to join in the movement by writing this blog post, as well as sharing on Social Media to get even more attention placed on this important topic.
Heads Together, a charity set up by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, is also active in working on removing the stigma around mental health.
There are many other charities and organisations that also deal with this very important topic. Here are links to three of them.
It takes guts to accept to ourselves when we are not feeling quite right with our mental health. It is even more difficult to accept it to our friends, family or even a therapist.
Drop in the added bonus of being looked at as [insert negative adjectives here] and also discriminated at work or your local community because your illness isn’t visible and you are probably exaggerating or making it up anyway, right?
- Frees us to be authentic, honest and real with ourselves and others about how we are really feeling and what we are willing to do about it.
- Challenges others to view mental health problems in a different light, and allowing more conversations to happen
- From the two above stems the fact that relationships can improve and become more supportive as a result of these difficult conversations
- Helps challenge the stereotypes that exist when someone mentions mental health problems
- People with mental health problems are unpredictable
- People with mental health problems are dangerous
- People with mental health problems are incompetent
- You are to blame for your mental health problems
- There is no hope for recovery
- (click here to read more) http://www.scattergoodfoundation.org
- The chance of recovery increases significantly once the person is honest with themselves, and the support system is in place – more understanding family, friends, employers, and seeking professional help even if for a short time.
- Seeing someone talk about their mental health problems in an open and honest way will help normalise what ill mental health actually means
- “if my friend has it, and I’ve known him/her all my life, then mental health can affect all of us.”
- “actually I’ve felt my mental health dwindle in the past but have been afraid to have the conversations”
- “I know him/her and wouldn’t say they’re unpredictable, dangerous, incompetent or that they brought it on themselves, or that there is no hope for recovery. My friend’s mental health problem challenges my view on mental health.”
- Mental ill health should be a topic of conversation as simple as physical ill health topics of conversation.
- It is much easier to call in sick at work and say something like “I broke my leg and will need some time to recover” than “I feel so anxious today that I’m unable to get up from bed”.
- It probably hurts just as bad – physically, psychologically and emotionally – to break your leg than to feel anxious or depressed.
- The difference is one is quantifiable and visible, whilst the other isn’t.
- It doesn’t mean that one exists and the other doesn’t or that one should be taken more seriously and with more compassion than the other.
I feel blessed to live in this day and age where, even though mental health stigma and discrimination still exists, it is easier for it to be challenged and views changed about it. There are even laws and white papers created that protect people with mental health issues from being discriminated (See The Mental Health Act 1983 and The Equality Act 2010).
As a mental health practitioner, I value the conversation about mental health and overwhelming life situations that stop us on our tracks and/or hinder our everyday life. It is a privilege to listen to people’s stories and help them work through their difficult feelings, thoughts and behaviours that, so that eventually (sooner than later – it all depends on each person’s individual journey and process) they can get their lives back on track.
Whether I see clients for 6 sessions, 3 months, a year, two years, three years or more, I trust that they have the strengths and resources within them and within their support group to help them get back on track. I trust in the therapeutic process and that together in the counselling room we can work through, process, understand, feel and think what needs to be worked through, processed, understood, felt and thought of so the person can move forward.
I believe in allowing our feelings to come out – I often use the phrase “out is better than in”, which is definitely applicable for getting your anger, sadness, upset, and any other feelings, out. Keeping them in might make us mentally ill but also physically ill or make it difficult for us to heal our emotional and psychological wounds.
Something that I find is useful for certain things but not as a therapeutic tool, are mental health diagnoses. I don’t underestimate a diagnosis (such as depression or bipolar disorder), but I won’t treat my client as a depressed person or a bipolar person. I will treat the person as a whole, and talk about whatever they bring on a particular session. I find this is more helpful and has felt like a relief to some clients. Yes they keep their diagnosis and the medication they might be taking, but they are not treated like a part of themselves or like the only thing they are is that depressed or that bipolar side of them.
There are a few things that definitely won’t work and will do more harm than good when talking to someone that’s telling you about their difficulties with their mental health:
- “go have a nap or a bath, you’ll feel better after”
- “I’m sure it’s not that bad, you’re a bit dramatic”
- “Aw, just get over it”
- “you are just doing it for attention”
- “you have mental health problems, therefore you are weak and broken”
- “it could be worse”
- “someone is worse off than you”
- “I know exactly how you feel”
- “go do something to distract you”
- “stop being lazy”
I want to end this post on a positive note. So, how can you support someone with mental health problems? It doesn’t have to be a massive thing. As you can see above, words can have a massive impact. Try these:
- “you are not alone, I’m here for you”
- “I’m listening”
- “what can I do to help”
- “have you tried talking to a counsellor”
- “I understand if you want to be on your own, but I’ll be here when you’re ready to hang out”
- “I believe you, I believe you are struggling”
I hope this post has been helpful and has challenged you in regards to mental health stigma and discrimination. Do share this post and the links I’ve left around the post, so others can have this conversation as well!