It’s mental health week.

I’m making an effort to communicate more.

I thought I would share this from my speech at our Hapus relaunch party a few years ago.

It was written a while ago, and is a bit clunky but still worth a share I think ….

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.  The only shameful thing about mental illness is the stigma and bias attached to it. Weather an illness affects your heart your leg or your brain there should be no distinction. These are the things that have been said by the great and the good for some time. Ruby wax, Michelle Obama, many others these days are very vocal about the equality of our brain with the rest of our bodies, but there is no escaping the fact that there is a huge stigma attached to having a mental health illness of any kind. It is endemic in our culture. According to the centre for disease control and prevention only 25% of people with a mental health illness feel that people are sympathetic and caring. We all know that the right care and support make such a huge difference when it comes to the treatment of illness. As does early treatment,  many people do not seek help until they literally cannot function as a result of fear and shame, thus making recovery so much harder. So many more struggle on alone never seeking help. Leading lives way below their actual potential, and enduring a lot of unnecessary suffering.

It’s not a small problem. Mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, contributing up to 22.8% of the total burden, compared to 15.9% for cancer and 16.2% for cardiovascular disease1. The wider economic costs of mental illness in England have been estimated at £105.2 billion each year. Although mental ill-health accounts for 28% of the total burden of disease, it gets just 13% of the NHS’s budget.

Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide.1Mental health and behavioural problems (e.g. depression, anxiety and drug use) are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide, causing over 40 million years of disability in 20 to 29-year-olds.2 Major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the burden of suicide and heart disease.3 It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem4

Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.3One person in fifteen had made a suicide attempt at some point in their life.4

10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem3, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.4

This sounds like a grim picture and like I am painting a very dark scene. But I don’t see it that way. A lot of mental health issues are both preventable, and curable. The vast majority are treatable. Many of the treatments are low intervention, and manageable, cheap and easy, and have many positive side effects.

With 25% of the population experiencing mental health issues in any given year. And mental health illnesses, aren’t short, episodes are typically measured in months if not years, not days or weeks. Mental health issues don’t just affect those that experience them, they affect families, friends and work places. Just think……with the right treatment and support that’s a hell of a lot of potential we have the capacity to harness. Think of money that could be saved, the work that could be done. Not to mention suffering we could ease and the lives we could save, if we only started to take this seriously and tackle it sensibly. What is needed is the knowledge and the willingness. I believe in order for this to happen we need to tackle first and foremost the stigma. Mental health stigma is a huge barrier to treatment. As I was writing this I saw a post from Ruby wax it said, ‘’I’ll say it again – mental illness is a physical illness. You wouldn’t consider going up to someone suffering from Alzheimer’s to yell, ’’Come on get on with it, you remember where you left your keys?’’ But I’m sorry to say I have had that very same experience happen to me as a result of my depression someone yelled in my face ‘’why don’t you answer the phone!’’ such experiences are common place .

The hospital where my father is currently receiving such incredible care for his cancer I’m so sorry to say is a place where I saw mental health patients being treated with such contempt and lack of care it took my breath away.

I’m reading to kill a mocking bird at the moment with my daughter, it shocks me to see the level of racism that existed in that culture at that time. Decent kind people treated others, of a different race and colour as less than, as sub human due to ignorance and lack of understanding. I believe Change really occurs when people from that culture, or experience stand up and say enough is enough. When Rosa parks refused to give up her seat, when Emily Parkhurst chained herself to the railings people begin to take notice and opinions change. The sad thing about mental health stigma is that the very things that are being said on the outside are the way that the disease also makes us feel. Low self-esteem and self-hatred comes with the package. Depression and anxiety makes us feel less than, like we are at fault and deserve to be treated badly. Racism, homophobia, sexism are all very difficult to deal with. The difficult thing about mental health stigma is that it also happens at a time when we are already ill, when we are at our weakest, at our most fragile and in need of support. When it’s so difficult to fight back. But enough is enough, fight back we must because our brain is an organ. It’s ridiculous to judge a person because they get ill. If any other part of the body has a problem we are given sympathy and support, but when the brain gets sick we are somehow to blame. That viewpoint is nuts …not us. Mental health stigma causes so much suffering, for everybody and its time it changed. We don’t need to understand anxiety, or depression, or addiction, or bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia, or eating disorders, we can’t understand everything, and all we need to understand is that they are illnesses, not character defects. A mental health illness is a disease not a disgrace. When society begins to understand this, we can help so many people and have so much more fun. I want my children to grow up in a world where it’s as normal to say to someone

”Oh Bob you sound like you might have a touch of depression, you better get down the doctor’s for a chat,” 

as it is to say

”Oh Mary don’t like the sound of that chest …better get it checked out.”

Where it’s normal and okay

not shameful.

Where prevention and early detection are part of life. I want to live in a world where Hapus Training is no longer needed as what I teach is common knowledge, where it’s taught in schools, and doctor’s surgeries. But we are nowhere near that yet, so how can we get there?8…well firstly we can talk about it, think about it, tell your children, your friends and loved ones that it’s okay to admit to have mental health difficulties, if you know of someone that is struggling reach out to them offer support …a phone call, a text, can mean the world. And if it’s happening to you ….don’t blame yourself, don’t listen your brain it’s lying to you. Reach out get help and support. And if you are not treated with care and compassion go somewhere else …you are ill not bad.

stigma is a lonely place

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