You’ve probably heard people talking about the stigma attached to mental health. You’ve probably also heard that a third of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives. So why does it still exist? Why, in this modern day and age, do we still hold these views?
But then again you may be reading this thinking, “Bloody hell, she banging on about that again!”
I don’t blame you. Until a few years ago I’d be saying the exact same thing. The well-known saying, “you’ll never understand until you go through it yourself” plays a major part in this stigma. Unless you’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt, you’ll probably never really get it.
However, we all have friends and/or family. Some of these may or may not be suffering right now. We all want to help them out as much as we can. As it turns out they’re too anxious to tell you because they’re worried you’ll respond in the same way.
So, how about we debunk some of the myths associated with mental health and how we respond to our loved ones? How about I give you the arsenal you need on how to respond to such statements when it arises?
“It’s for attention seeking.”
So these people, you know the ones suffering from a mental health issue, are making it up. I cannot tell you how often I hear this. I bet you have either thought about it yourself, or have had this said to you at some point.
Imagine it like this. You’re getting yourself ready for an interview. You know that feeling you get - the nervousness and anticipation of what’s to come. This is what it’s like to have anxiety. It’s like a constant state of readiness for what might be coming. Why would someone decide to make this up?
Or how about suffering from depression? Imagine being always tired. Imagine trying to get yourself off the sofa with a broken leg so you can go to the shops. Except in this case the leg is your brain. It’s like dragging a cast around at all times, attached to your neck. It can be immobilising and exhausting.
As you can see it’s doubtful that someone would do this for attention. Most of the time sufferers of a mental illness wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy. They just want to get better.
“You can’t touch it, therefore it doesn’t exist.”
This is a biggie right here. You can quite easily sign a cast on a broken leg. But you sure as hell can’t sign a broken brain. Just because you can’t see it like you can a chair, or your arm, doesn’t mean it isn’t there though. By the way I love chairs, poor broken chairs.
Your dreams feel so real sometimes don’t they? That’s your brain in gear right there. But we don’t dismiss dreams like we do mental illness, do we?
Our brain is our most prized possession, or should be treated as such. But we tend to forget it’s there, even though it’s the control center of your non oiled (mine), or well oiled, body. Remember that next time this thought crosses you.
“People with mental health issues should be in hospital. That’s the best place for them.”
I feel slightly infuriated writing this. A hospital is a sanctuary for anyone who needs treatment. Anyone. But they don’t deserve being shrugged off and putting away just because they have a mental health issue. Your neighbour at work might have bipolar disorder. I suffer from anxiety but I’m writing this now.
Should I be put in hospital for this reason? Non. I can still type, go to work, include French in my writing, and prosper, just like you can. Please don’t patronize me for that.
“Well they don’t look ill, do they?”
Suffering from a mental health condition is, and can be classed as, an invisible illness. You would never tell someone passing you on the street has multiple personalities. But by god will you notice that snotty blubbering mess sat next to you on the bus.
It’s gross but it can’t be helped, having a cold. We all get ill.
But we definitely shouldn’t be ignored for the fact that our illness can’t be seen on our face or leg. In some people’s cases, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s something as simple as that.
“Not on my door step.”
None of us want any trouble from our neighbours. We just want to live in peace, with a simple life and no drama. We definitely wouldn’t like a convicted criminal next door. Or would we? That convicted criminal has maybe turned a new leaf in life. They work, pay taxes and have children.
Us ‘mental illness sufferer’s’ are exactly the same. We want the same things as you. We absolutely don’t want to be patronized for it. Heck we probably won’t tell you anyway so you’ll never know. See above for more details on this.
Let’s not ignore that person at work for the troubles they’ve been going through. Let’s not ignore that friend who is just ‘a worrier’. Let’s talk, all of us. We are social creatures and we such act as such. I promise you I’ll be ‘banging on’ about mental health awareness until the cows come home. I love cows.