Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why I think speaking up about mental health problems is important.

Hi. I have a mental illness.
I take medication to control my depression and anxiety.
In the (long) past, I tried to commit suicide.
Over the last 15 years, I have self-harmed.
I am mentally ill.

And I used to be so scared to mention it. I'd prevaricate when asked about the scars on my arms. I'd keep quiet when people talked about mental illness, for fear I'd be labelled a nutter.

But not any more.

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.

Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain.

400 per 100,000 population in the UK will self-harm.

And yet there are millions of people, who think that they don't know anyone with a mental illness, who will happily blah away about the fact that anyone with a mental illness is a fucking nutter. You can't trust them. They might do anything!

I think I just got tired of people like that spouting nonsense without even considering that one or more of the people who overheard had mental illnesses. So now I'm open about it. If asked, I talk about my medication, the genetic component, how it is to live with a medical problem.

I mean, no-one stigmatises you for having asthma or arthritis. My mental illness should be no more of a stigma than these. And that's what I'm trying to show. I may be mentally ill, but that doesn't somehow make me a different person than the one you've known these last few years. The fact that you treat me warily now makes me realise that you aren't the person I thought you were.

Now, I'm not saying that everyone with a mental illness should talk about it. If you're in a situation where it will harm your mental health to do so, then don't. That's the last thing I want. But if you're not, and can brave it (it takes guts to do so, in my experience) then give it a try.

Maybe it'll teach some people something.

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