Seeing the bigger picture opens your eyes to what is the truth.Wadada Leo Smith
While we now live in a current generation where discussions around mental health are on the increase, and general knowledge of the topic seems to be growing, nobody could argue that we as a society still have an awful long way to go in tackling negative attitudes and ensuring everybody with a mental health problem is treated fairly and equally. That they don’t feel shame and that the people around them won’t act as though they are strange, different or anything else. After all everybody is unique and surely we should embrace this! How boring would it be if we were all the same?
Particularly in the case of depression and anxiety, whereby diagnosis and coverage is more frequent, more people are understanding the impacts they have on people’s lives. That being said, if I were to explore the issues facing people with OCD, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder and a whole range of other mental health problems, the chances are that the overall level of empathy and understanding given to people with these ‘labels’ would dramatically decrease. The question is: why could this be the case?
With an estimated 1 in 6 adults having experienced a common mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety in the last week alone, approximately 2% of the general population are estimated to suffering with OCD and less than 1% with BPD, therefore it is likely that the media coverage around mental health and the subsequent opinions people acquire are reflected by the statistics. Because conditions like BPD are often far less common,the spotlight they receive and the experiences people endure are often left hidden behind closed doors. And what good is that doing? Even when they are given a shred of thought, sometimes all we are made to see is the stigmatising, negative and sheer ignorant headlines.’The Schizophrenic murderer strikes again’. ‘There’s nothing more to OCD hand-washing’. ‘Man with Bipolar goes off the rails’. Not the stories of hope, people battling adversity or perhaps those who have used their hardship to make a positive difference to others!
So much of what we read and consume via by the media and other forms sticks us like glue, so I would argue it’s incredibly important that people going emotional turmoil such as these conditions are not tarred with the same brush and portrayed as people that are abnormal or should be punished. No matter who are you are or whatever mental health problem you face, you shouldn’t have to experience the added stress of others beating you down or making you feel inhuman or unworthy. Yes you may have an illness, yes it is painful, however you’re just as capable as anybody else.
The opinions of many around schizophrenia are associated with extreme violence and harm, and bipolar with persistent mood swings, therefore it’s paramount that we re-consider stereotypes and acknowledge how a certain word, statement or action may make a person feel. A certain phrase may roll off the tongue so easy you didn’t realise you’d even said it, however that doesn’t mean your actions won’t hurt or have long-term repercussions. Having an illness, especially one that very few people understand, is hard enough to deal with without a critical comment or someone making them feel guilty for how they are. As the old saying goes: ‘Every action has a reaction.’
Having a mental health problem may be part of somebody’s story, but it does not define them or make up their whole personality. If you were in a position where life was getting too much, how would you wish to be treated? Take a moment to think and look at the bigger picture…..
Should anybody reading this be experiencing similar issues to the ones explored above, or is possibly wanting to listen to other people’s experiences, I urge you to check out the brilliant new campaign brought out by Time to Change via the link and video below. Though I appreciate that progress can be slow-going, my hope is that blogs such as this and the brilliant campaigns going on globally will provide the lesser discussed mental health conditions with the conversations and support they so thoroughly deserve and require. Nobody should be left behind or made to feel as though their troubles aren’t complex enough!
Thanks for reading,