In 2017, I am deeply saddened to say that mental illness is a taboo subject. Granted we are getting better, and we have definitely moved on from the electric shock treatment days, but there is still a HUGE stigma about talking openly about your personal struggles with mental health. Every single day people face discrimination because of their mental illness. Whether that be in school, in the workplace or online. Not getting employed because of a past history of mental illness ( which doesn't affect the job they are applying for), being bullied in school because of an eating disorder or getting hurtful comments online because of a self-harm scars, are just some of the many ways, 1/4 of us still experience mental health discrimination.
Why? Why is this still happening? People don't know enough about mental illness. We are not taught about mental health in school. There may be an odd lesson here and there. That is NOT sufficient. It should be a regular part of the curriculum, from the age of five, here in the UK when children start school. My school focused heavily on alcohol and job prospects during year 10 and 11, completely ignoring the mental health crisis affecting 1 in 4 of their students.
Due to this lack of awareness and education during school, young people don't know how to look after their mental health, how to get help if they are struggling with their mental health and definitely don't have an understanding of the different types of mental illnesses. Which means when they see someone who is performing an OCD compulsion, having a panic attack or is depressed, they think they are just doing it for attention. Oh yeah, and apparently they believe they are medical experts and a walk will solve everything. Thanks for that.
There is a lot of stigma and fiction that surrounds mental health, which is why I've decided to dedicate a whole post to mental health myth busting. " Who ya gonna call? Mental health myth busters!" I tried, but it's just not as catchy...sorry!
Myth: Menta health problems are rare and uncommon.
Fact: One in four people have a mental health problem. That probably includes someone you know.
Myth: All young people go through mental health problems, it's just a normal part of growing up
Fact: 1 in 10 young people struggle with a mental illness.
Myth: Only certain people will be affected by mental illness
Fact: We all have mental health. Just like physical health. And just like physical health, your mental health can get worse or better.
Myth: You can't recover from a mental illness.
Fact: Oh yes you can! With the right support, recovery is possible. It can be a long journey, and it may never go completely e.g. it may get worse in times of stress. However, that doesn't mean you can't manage your mental illness.
Myth: Mental illness is a sign of weakness.
Fact: You wouldn't think someone is weak for having a broken leg, it's the same for someone with a mental illness. Mental illness just like physical illness is an everyday part of human experience.
Myth: Mental illness only affects people who have a rough childhood.
Fact: Mental illness can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Some living on the streets or someone in a million pound mansion. Doctors, teachers and office workers. Mental illness does not discriminate.
Myth: People who struggle with their mental health are more likely to be criminals
Fact: Despite what the media likes to portray, a very small minority of those who have a mental illness will go on to commit crimes as a result. Most of us are loving, kind and rational folks.
Myth: Antidepressants are the only treatment for mental illness.
Fact: 1 in 11, adults in the UK take antidepressants. (Source) However, they are not the only treatment. Lots of people taking antidepressants also undergo some kind of talking therapy such as CBT.
Myth: If I tell someone about my mental illness I will be sectioned
Fact: Probably not. People are only sectioned if they are at risk to themselves or those around them. You would only be sectioned if you refused to go in voluntarily.
Myth: People with a mental illness can't hold down a job
Fact: 60-70% of people with common mental illnesses are in work (Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report, Dame Sally Davies), you probably work with someone with a mental illness.
Myth: I can't help someone with a mental illness
Fact: Yes you can! You don't have to be a professional, you just need to be there for them. Listen. Be a shoulder to cry on. Maybe check out some of my blog posts for tips and advice.
Myth: Suicide is rare
Fact: 6,188 suicides were registered in the UK and 451 in the Republic of Ireland, during 2016 (Source)
Myth: Men don't suffer from mental illness.
Fact: The highest suicide rate in the UK, during 2016 was for men aged 40–44. (Source) Men are as equally likely to suffer from mental health problems but are a lot less likely to talk about it due to stigma.
I hope this post has given you a clearer more detailed insight into the reality of mental illness. If you didn't know anything before, I hope you are more educated now. If already knew your stuff, please share this post on your social media and with people you know who aren't as clued up about mental health. Together we can smash the stigma around mental health.