It’s funny… Sometimes in life, it’s the people who appear to be the most confident, the ones who say what everyone else is thinking, the loudest person in the family or group of friends, the most insensitive, the most aggressive, the most abrupt , the most tactless, the most fashionable, the most ‘beautiful’ , the ones in the best job, who are ,in fact the ones that are the most unhappy, most insecure. in need of the most love and support and the ones who are in emotional and/or mental turmoil.
Of course it goes without saying that also reserved, quiet, those suffering from ill health ,socially isolated and ‘normal’ people can also suffer from a mental illness.
The point is, mental illness can effect anyone at any given time.
Mental Illness does not discriminate!
Despite mental illness effecting over 25% of the population, thats 1 in 4 people every year in the UK, most of us don’t know how to deal with our own mental health or how to deal with a friend or loved one who approaches us with their issues.
Just because its not discussed, does not mean that it’s not happening!
Earlier this week, I watched a documentary about people in the UK living with different mental illnesses from Bipolar to Schizophrenia, and Schizophrenia to Depression. Despite the astounding bravery of these men and women, having an open discussion about their illness for television, another thing became apparent. They faced an awful amount of stigma in a society where mental illness is still a very taboo.
One of the participants, who discussed having Bipolar, particularly struck a cord with me. He described his behaviour prior to diagnosis as aggressive. He was frequently abusive towards others, a defence mechanism. Ultimately, he didn’t feel like he was a good enough to be a member of society. He had no self worth, no purpose and believed everyone would have been better off without him, which eventually led to him trying to take his own life. It was then that whilst being treated in hospital that he was diagnosed with Bipolar.
Listening to this participant speak left me with an overwhelming sense of sadness, another person misunderstood!
So great! he now has a diagnosis, and now knows that his behaviour and feelings are the result of an illness, for which prior to diagnosis, was not under clinical supervision. But on top of that he now has to deal with the stigma associated with poor mental health.
‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover‘, ‘things aren’t always what they seem’, ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’. These are all phrases that we have all heard and probably use more than we realise, but why is it that when it comes to mental health we do the exact thing that we tell others not to?
It needs to stop! The negativity, the stigma, the whispering.
Its callous and juvenile.
I’m not saying for one moment its easy. I mean if a friend, family member, work colleague or neighbour approached you about their mental illness, or became ill and was displaying behaviour that for them is ‘out of character’, it can be difficult to know how to deal with the situation. But, think about this…. As nervous and uncomfortable as you may feel is nothing compared to what that individual is going through.
By sharing aspects of their illness with you, by opening up to you or a professional, they may be dealing with a mixture of emotions, that they themselves may be struggling to come to terms with.Vulnerability, anxiety and fear to name a few. They may just want someone to listen, to give them a hug or to just show let them know that you are there for them to offer support, let them tell you what they need, don’t make assumptions!
The situation can be rather complex and understandably not everyone will feel that they are equipped to provide the type of support needed. But there are tons of support groups and charities that have very helpful resources and tips that can be accessed with specially trained staff who want to help where possible.
Links to some of these groups/ charities are below:
If this has not already been done, encourage your friend/ loved one to visit their GP or other health professional. Health Coach services like at justlikeme Health Coaching and Wellbeing can help with mindful techniques, relaxation techniques and look at improving overall health and wellbeing, but should not be accessed for confirmation of or clinical advice on a diagnosis.
I know how difficult it can be to support someone who has a mental illness. If you are supporting or caring for someone it is equally important that you look after your own health and wellbeing. Afterall, if you aren’t well you can’t look after / support anybody else effectively…
Finally, If you have read this and you are suffering with a mental illness, remember the first step is the hardest but it gets easier!
Love you always, Nika
Picture by LSBU