Mental Health

Talking about ill mental health

(TW: Mental health, depression, anxiety, paranoia, bipolar, hearing voices, name calling, self harm)

Yellow background, pink face and head with three bubbles. One saying depression, one paranoia, one anxiety
Yellow background, pink face and head with three bubbles. One saying depression, one paranoia, one anxiety

Ill mental health is a funny thing; it affects everyone in such different ways, for such different reasons.

Personally mine at the moment is focused on the anxiety and low moods. I am anxious all of the time, paranoid that the next thing I say will be taken wrong, or that everyone is looking at me funny, I am annoying, people can’t stand me, nobody wants me around, I don’t fit in. I get stuck in a rut. The thoughts go through my head over and over, taunting me. I know that this is just a part of my mental health condition but I can’t help but wonder what if? What if that wasn’t just my head telling me she looked at me funny? What if he really did wish I wasn’t there at that point? What if they were pissed off with me still talking? The constant battle trying to work out what is my head and what is reality.

It makes things impossible sometimes. I don’t know if it is worth talking to anyone, I just feel like I am going to be a waste of their time and I clam up. It is horrible. I hate it and I wish I didn’t suffer from this. I am on medication, but it doesn’t make everything better, not yet anyway.

Why am I saying all of this? Well firstly the obvious, this is my blog and I feel like writing about my mental health so I am going to write about it!

But there is another reason. This is the reason I helped start Free Your Mind. It’s the reason I have been so vocal about mental health in general for so long. It doesn’t go away if you ignore it.

Think about how often people take days off school or work. Think about how often when people are off they get a ‘Get Well Soon’ card. Now think about how often those taking a day off for mental health get anything more than a ‘Cheer Up’ or ‘Smile, it will be okay!’. Would you tell someone with a broken leg to just start walking, it’ll make it better? Of course not. That would be avoiding the problem and making it worse.

1 in 4 people are affected by a mental health problem in any year. Time to change #TimetoTalk infographic
1 in 4 people are affected by a mental health problem in any year. Time to change #TimetoTalk infographic

Ill mental health works in the same way as any other medical issue. It doesn’t just go away. Clinically depressed people don’t suddenly start feeling better because they put on a smile one day. It isn’t easy to talk about, simply due to the nature of it. It is hidden, you can’t tell by looking at someone that they are depressed, you can’t tell that they hear voices by glancing in their direction, or even having a small chat with them. This stuff is hidden. But it doesn’t have to be like that all of the time.

Mental health is hidden because people do not feel able to talk about it. Yes, some of that can be down to the conditions themselves – they can make it worse and make the sufferer feel unable to speak about their worries, I know this because I face this issue daily. But it can also be down to the reactions. I mention above about ‘get well soon’ cards. How often do you ask someone how they are really feeling? In Britain we have a way of saying we are doing well all of the time. It is seen as rude to some people to drone on about your life, “Hey, how are you?” “Oh I am good thanks, how about you?” “I am fine thanks yeah.” Such a common thing to hear we have become desensitised to it.

What would happen if someone replied with a longer response? “Oh not too good, my mental health hasn’t been great lately and I am really struggling to leave the house at the moment.” I wish it wasn’t the case, but often this can be met with resentment. ‘Why did I need to know all of that?’  ‘I was just being polite, I don’t need to know that.’ I remember as a child being told it was frustrating. People didn’t need to know the ins and outs. Honestly? I can respect that. Not everyone can deal with being told everything, not everyone feels able to cope with it. But it is attitudes like these that can worsen the ability to talk about ill mental health.

1 in 4 students diagnosed with a mental health issue are not comfortable talking about it.
1 in 4 students diagnosed with a mental health issue are not comfortable talking about it.

Name calling.

I won’t list them. We can all think of a dozen names off of the top of our heads when it comes to name calling. It is a horrible thing that can be experienced by people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and class. Anyone can be the victim.

The thing is, mental health has the same catchment. Anyone can be affected. Here I mean those who are being called names, and those who are around them. You could be there with your best friend, insulting somebody at work, telling your friend how you think they are “absolutely crazy,” and how “you’d think they were bipolar by the way they act”. You might not think anything of it.

But what if your friend is coming to terms with their mental health and they have just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder? What if they are concerned they may have ill mental health themselves? Have you ever thought about those around you before making a joke? Before making an offhand comment? Think harder. 1 in 4 people is a lot.

Boy with hoodie on and paper torn away from the mouth with the word 'Nutter' written on the underside. Text at top says 'I'm dealing with depression. Stupid names don't help'
Boy with hoodie on and paper torn away from the mouth with the word ‘Nutter’ written on the underside. Text at top says ‘I’m dealing with depression. Stupid names don’t help’

Another issue? People always think they have the right solution to mental health, and don’t think about how you know you can be helped.

I have suffered from depression for a long time. I have built up techniques that can help me. It used to be that my only coping strategy was self-harm. I hated it, but it helped me. Now, I find quidditch helps. I find staying in bed and reading a book, going on facebook, blogging all help. I have various coping mechanisms and you will find that a lot of people with ill mental health have their own. They may not always be healthy to the outside eye, but sometimes this is what the person needs in order to battle their inner daemons.

Too often people on the outside are quick to suggest solutions to make it all go away’. Unfortunately? It is not that simple. Trust me on this one. Unless someone directly asks you for help on how to cope with something, or how to distract their mind, do not offer advice willynilly. Unless you are a medical practitioner, and in charge of their care, chances are you may not know the best thing for them anyway. You don’t know what has been tried before, you don’t know what could have triggered them in the past. Sometimes they just need you to stand there and listen.

Person with stubble around their lips, and a zip across the split between them, slightly open.
Person with stubble around their lips, and a zip across the split between them, slightly open.

Have you ever been to the doctor, wondering if they will tell you that your worries are unfounded? That you are over thinking something? Have you ever checked with a friend, said “Hey, my knee is pretty swollen, do you think maybe I should get it checked out?” Sure, it doesn’t happen every time. Often you know that you can go and you can speak about this. Broken legs are seen all the time, it’s not like you’d have to hide it away after.

But mental health isn’t. I have spoken to hundreds of people with mental health issues over the years and one thing I always here is that they wish they knew how to reach out to people. How to tell them that they are not okay. One reason I am leaving university is I felt stuck in that position so often with my course. I felt unable to say hey, I need some help. I am really struggling. I needed sometimes not to have to make up a physical alignment in order to explain my mental reasons for absence from class.

I won’t talk much more on this topic tonight, it is difficult to cover and I know this is not going to be the last of what I say on the matter. All I want to leave you with is a few images.

Inforgraphic. Text: 1 in 4. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year. 8-12% of the population suffer from depression, the most common mental health problem. 3 children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. From the Deputy Prime Minister's office. #MentalHealth
Inforgraphic. Text: 1 in 4. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year. 8-12% of the population suffer from depression, the most common mental health problem. 3 children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. From the Deputy Prime Minister’s office. #MentalHealth
1 in ten young people has a mental health problem #TimetoChange infographic
1 in ten young people has a mental health problem #TimetoChange infographic
Tweet from Time to Change "9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination #TimetoTalk
Tweet from Time to Change “9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination #TimetoTalk
Comic on treating physical health like mental health called helpful advice.  Left to right top to bottom.   Image of person lying in bed rolling over holding stomach, another person stands above them saying: "I get that you have food poisoning and all but you have to at least make an effort."   Person standing with hand seemingly cut off and bleeding. Another in front of them saying: "You just need to change your frame of mind. Then you'll feel better."  Person leaning over toilet seat as though throwing up. Another standing behind them saying: "Have you tried... you know... not having the flu?"  Person standing injecting themselves with medication and another to the side saying "I don't think it's healthy that you have to take medication every day just to feel normal. Don't you worry that it's changing you from who you really are?"  Person standing bleeding on the head and hands. Another to the side saying, "It's like you're not even trying."  Person seemingly on life support, another standing over them saying, "Well lying in bed obviously isn't helping you. You need to try something else."
Comic on treating physical health like mental health called helpful advice.
Left to right top to bottom.
Image of person lying in bed rolling over holding stomach, another person stands above them saying: “I get that you have food poisoning and all but you have to at least make an effort.”
Person standing with hand seemingly cut off and bleeding. Another in front of them saying: “You just need to change your frame of mind. Then you’ll feel better.”
Person leaning over toilet seat as though throwing up. Another standing behind them saying: “Have you tried… you know… not having the flu?”
Person standing injecting themselves with medication and another to the side saying “I don’t think it’s healthy that you have to take medication every day just to feel normal. Don’t you worry that it’s changing you from who you really are?”
Person standing bleeding on the head and hands. Another to the side saying, “It’s like you’re not even trying.”
Person seemingly on life support, another standing over them saying, “Well lying in bed obviously isn’t helping you. You need to try something else.”

Mental health stigma is horrible. It needs to be removed. Please don’t be someone who adds to it. Start up a conversation. Mention mental health, say you read this post if it helps. Bring up the topic. Get some thoughts going. You never know, someone may need help to bring it up. They may need someone to lend an ear. Be there for someone, you never know when ill mental health could impact your life.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Talking about ill mental health”

  1. Mental well-being is something I wish more people would open up about, I wish employers would be more observant, more aware and that places stood up and said its OK. I wish there we all could just say ‘its not a good day, please make sure you keep an eye on me’. I wish so much that people had a voice loud enough to be heard.
    Be Brave, be loud, be heard!

    Like

    1. Thank you! I completely agree. I have done much work in the community and I still struggle to say that from time to time. Everyone has bad days, some are worse than others, that shouldn’t be such a taboo thing. Thank you again for your comments.

      Like

  2. This post made me feel less alone on the topic. I am glad I have read this and glad you took the time to write this. I especially loved this paragraph “Think about how often people take days off school or work. Think about how often when people are off they get a ‘Get Well Soon’ card. Now think about how often those taking a day off for mental health get anything more than a ‘Cheer Up’ or ‘Smile, it will be okay!’. Would you tell someone with a broken leg to just start walking, it’ll make it better? Of course not. That would be avoiding the problem and making it worse.” it put’s thing’s into perspective for others.

    Like

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s