Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Let's change the stigma around mental health together

Mental health stigma

I was told a story the other day by one of my friends and was saddened and shocked to hear it. One of the doctors she had been shadowing expressed their view that 'only mediocre people suffer with depression, as clever people have no time for it'. I was stunned that prejudiced views like this still surround mental illnesses in this day and age, and disappointed that this came from the mouth of a healthcare worker who must see people with depression all the time.

Statistics show that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, with anxiety and depression being the most common. Mental illness can affect anyone from any background, with any level of intelligence and from any culture or society. It is one of the most prevalent things in the world, and will touch everyone at some point in their life, whether it's directly or indirectly through somebody they know. Being busy also doesn't stop people from developing mental illnesses; in some cases it can make it worse. In fact, doctors are at the top of the UK incidence table for work-related mental conditions, alongside people in the armed forces - between 10 and 20% of doctors will become depressed at some point in their career.

Fortunately, I feel like the stigma around mental health is slowly starting to change. This year there was a lot of media coverage around Robin Williams' suicide, as well as events like World Mental Health Day to raise awareness. However, there is still a long way to go when stigmatised views still exist. Mental health isn't the same as physical health in the way that it cannot be seen, but when there are problems it can be as debilitating, if not more, than traditional illnesses like heart disease and cancer. People find it difficult to understand mental health conditions unless they have experienced one themselves or been close to someone else that has experienced one. It can be fairly easy to imagine having a crushing pain in the chest, or pins and needles in your hand for the rest of your life, but for many it can be difficult to understand irrational and negative thoughts, especially those that make people want to hurt themselves.

My generation needs to step up and change the stigma around mental health problems, especially students like me that will be working in the healthcare industry in the future. I think a lot of younger people are more understanding and open-minded about mental health and have been made much more aware of it than perhaps older generations were, and it is becoming more acceptable to talk about it. There is a lot left to be done, but please if you are reading this think about how awful mental health problems can be for people. Have a quick read of some of my other posts about depression if you like, to get more of an understanding of it. Especially if you're a medical student - you may only be one person, but you have the power to affect a lot of patients' treatments in the future, and if you understand how to manage their mental health it can improve their quality of life immensely. Please never be the person that tells someone with a mental illness to 'pull themselves together' - think hard before you speak, as it's amazing how much you can hurt someone without knowing.

Mental health conditions are extremely serious and nothing to be ashamed about - we should be able to discuss them more openly without feeling judged - perhaps then suicide would no longer be the leading cause of death in young men as they would have somebody to turn to and feel supported by.

Hannah x

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but is more common and also more hard to bear.
                                         - C.S. Lewis

23 comments:

  1. Well done Hannah for a brilliantly written, informative piece. I agree that it's up to us to ensure mental health talk is open and 'on the table'.

    I had a very dysfunctional childhood which led to major bouts of depression as a young adult. I've just released a book which you might be interested in http://www.amazon.co.uk/Become-Best-You-Peace-Dysfunction/dp/1503267148/ref=as_sl_pc_ss_til?tag=mumtri-21&linkCode=w01&linkId=YQ7IK24OE3F3NEIT&creativeASIN=1503267148

    Best wishes xx
    ReneƩ @ http://mummytries.com

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    1. Thank you so much Renee. I will definitely be putting your book on my Christmas list :) xx

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  2. Young people like you give all young people a good name. Good on ya!

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  3. Thank you Hannah - a really well written article! It saddens me to hear about your friends experience shadowing the Dr. I strongly support the work you're doing here. I've pledged for #TimeToTalk and think all generations need more education and raised awareness of Mental Health Issues. Will most definitely be recommending friends to read your blogs!

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    1. Hi Abby,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I know - it's awful that anybody would think that way. It's great that you're supporting mental health - it's so important and there's a long way to go. It would be amazing if you recommended your friends to have a read - the more awareness the better!

      Hannah xx

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  4. Well said Hannah. I have used Time to Talk and they helped me to find the strength leave a job that was almost killing me with stress and triggering my depression. To get out of depression is much more complicated than "pulling yourself together". It's about finding ways to break the cycle of negative thought, and stopping the triggers that keep it going. Negative thought leads to depression, which can lead to suicide. And those who are still on a waiting list for Time to Talk, should talk to close relatives and friends, who will then keep a friendly eye on them so they won't hurt themselves.

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    1. I'm glad you managed to get out of your job. I definitely agree with you about managing depression - it's a difficult thing to get out of but friends and family are a massive support.

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  5. A brilliant piece. If we treated physical illness the way we do mental illness then we'd be doomed.

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  6. fantastic post Hannah! :)
    younger people are more understanding I've found than older people, maybe they are just more open minded about it all :) xxxx

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    1. Thank you Anna! I think the younger generation have been made more aware about mental health, whereas older people often don't know much about it and have been brought up in the era where they were told to 'pull themselves together' and not to recognise mental health problems. But the change in stigma towards it recently is really positive :) xxxx

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  7. Well said Hannah! I'm a board certified clinical neuropsychologist and have treated folks with medical and mental health disorders for 20 years. I frequently blog about such issues on my site as well. It's my passion to help stamp out the stigma of mental health! I suspect the doctor who made such callous remarks has never had the misfortune to walk through depression's dark door. Keep writing and keep an ear open to those who are hurting. That'll set you apart from the rest!

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    1. Thank you Dr Bengston! I will check out your blog too. No I don't think he had - fortunately for him. I will do!

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  8. Ugh. I can't believe a health care professional would say such a thing. That just reinforces the lies that depression tells us. When mine is controlling me, I certainly feel mediocre. But I know that I am not. I know that I am intelligent and have something valuable to add to this world. Depression lies. Those are the words I hold on to. Thank you for this post.

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    1. I know it's awful. You definitely are not mediocre, trust me :) xx

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  9. Came across this post after reading your latest one about antidepressants and couldn't agree more. Only my boyfriend knows about my depression/anxiety as I'm just terrified about what other people would think/say and I really don't know why. I wouldn't be bothered about telling someone I had a headache so why should I be about an illness that's mental?! I definitely think something needs to be done about the stigma as if people felt like they could talk about it more, I'm sure there would be less people feeling like they have no other way out than suicide/self-harming etc.

    Great post lovely - it's nice to see other people are in the same position :)

    Beth x

    Bethany Georgina

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    1. Thank you for your comment Beth. I'm sure people would be much more understanding about your illness than you think, the stigma really is starting to change (albeit slowly), and I think your family would want to know how you are feeling. But I completely understand when you say it's difficult to talk to people about it, as you think it will change their whole perspective on you. I hope you feel better soon lovely xxx

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  10. Good post....thanks for sharing.. very useful for me i will bookmark this for my future needs. Thanks. Fetal Monitor

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    1. That's great, I'm glad you enjoyed it :) x

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