Having suffered with a mental illness myself, I have been on the receiving end of the comments and the stigma which surrounds mental health and related illnesses. I feel that, in the world we live in at present, there isn’t enough understanding or acceptance of mental illness.
While suffering from anxiety and low mood, I received comments such as ‘incapacitated’; making me feel that, because I had anxiety and low mood, I wasn’t able to function as I did previously. I was also told to ‘wait until I was better’ before making decisions in my life. Again, this made me feel worthless and that I was not capable of normal functions. I felt ‘written off’ and as though I was damaged goods.
The point which I would like to make is that there needs to be more awareness and understanding when it comes to mental health illness, as it’s still looked upon as it was in Victorian times. One of the major issues which I had was because people could not see what was wrong with me, therefore, they felt it was alright to say: ‘you will get over it,’ ‘chin up, it’s just a bad day.’
There were days I much preferred to be on my own because I felt no one was listening to how I felt. Because they could not see a cut, or a gash, or a physical injury they assumed I was fine, it was brushed off as nothing.
It was at times like these when I began to feel I was alone. I had no one to turn to and there was only one way out. I feel that when a family member is either diagnosed with a mental illness or, like me, admits it and seeks help, I think the whole family should be involved in the process. This would allow time for questions from both sides and, in a controlled atmosphere, the family can have the opportunity to speak with a professional about their loved ones’ illness. It would also involve the whole family in the recovery process.
By approaching the therapy as a family, but centred on the person who has a mental illness, would reduce the rates of suicide, as the person who is suffering knows they can talk to their family – this based on my own thoughts. On the other hand, the family will know how to deal with that person in their times of need.
To anyone who is, or has, suffered a mental illness, they should not have to face it alone, and they definitely shouldn’t feel alone when they are surrounded by family. Family will always want to do the right thing, they may not know what that is though.
If they try to work it out for themselves, as in my case, they made some bad days, my worst days ever. This was by no means my family’s fault. It is the lack of knowledge and understanding of mental illnesses as they are, in my opinion, still a taboo topic in some social classes and societies in the present day.
Dale Burden is a correspondent for Psychreg. He holds a dual honours degree in psychology and neuroscience from Keele University.