8 thoughts for Mental Health Awareness Day…

Today has been Mental Health Awareness Day and there are lots of nice posts going around that are useful or informative or comforting. They make me think about a lot of stuff.
What you’ll read below is more a collection of slightly uncomfortable musings than a coherently constructed reflection on mental health awareness and the issues arising from it. But still, I think maybe some of it is helpful…

1. Talking about mental health is a lot less awkward than talking about mental illness

Contrary to popular commentary, I think we’re getting okay about talking about ‘mental health’. Like, how we should talk about our feelings and listen to/make time for others, and all the things we can do to help keep ourselves mentally healthy, from exercise to mindfulness.

We’re not even that bad at talking about mental illness anymore (a subtly different and more medical/scary subject than mental health I think). Even the Tories bang on about how there should be ‘parity’ of provision for mental and physical health and it’s sort of okay to mention you’ve suffered with “mental health issues” in polite company nowadays.
But I read a tweet the other day and thought ‘yeah, this.’

If you’re talking about something you’ve gotten over stoically or heroically it’s okay. It’s also okay if you’re talking about it in the abstract, or if you’re talking about ‘feeling down’ – we can cope with those things. It’s harder to say stuff like ‘everything is a struggle and I can’t see how it’ll get better’ or ‘I wake up every morning with an almost paralysing fear of the day head pressing down on me’. That’s still awkward, isn’t it. Even worse, admitting you take mood-regulating medication… erm… #NutterAlert*

2. Sometimes people get poorly

There are lots of things you can do to care for yourself but, just like with physical health, mental illness can’t always be prevented, even with all the exercise and good vibes in the world. Sometimes we need professional help.

3. Sometimes it’s a one off

Some people have a mental health episode just once and it’s often triggered by a life event/trauma. For them it may be like breaking a limb; immediately debilitating, slow to recover from and perhaps leaving a scar or slight weakness that needs to be kept in mind.

4. It can be a chronic illness

For some people depression/anxiety/psychosis is a chronic illness, something they have to manage daily, that makes them poorly periodically and something they fear flaring up every time they fell a bit wobbly.

5. There’s a difference between thinking about suicide and being suicidal

I can say with a strong degree of certainty that you know several people who regularly think about suicide. There’s probably someone you know who totally has their shit together who thinks about suicide several times a day. These thoughts are just something they have learned to live with, like the ache from a dodgy joint; not life threatening, but tiring and really not nice.
(if you are one of these people, you’re really more normal than you think but that doesn’t mean it does suck, try not to worry too much, thoughts only have the power we give them, hang in there, and talk to someone if you can.)

6. Sometimes we need medicine

Anti-depressants are just medicine, they aren’t a ‘crutch’ Yes, like everything else they aren’t right for everyone, have side effects and sometimes they get wrongly prescribed, but they also save lives. Goodness knows how many.
Depressives can manage their condition with things like exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness and talking therapies, but for many our brain chemistry just needs a constant bit of help in staying not-mad.

7. You don’t HAVE to get ‘off your meds’

There is a certain pressure to get off anti-depressants or any mental illness medication; it is a goal to which people like me feel they should aspire. And it’s a goal that can make some of us feel like shitty failures. Sad but true.
Think diabetics and insulin; there are lots of things diabetics can do to manage their condition but even with all those things in place you would never expect someone to ‘get themselves off the insulin’. If your depression is a chronic illness then the same thing applies. Coming off your meds because ‘it’s about time’ or others think you should is potentially dangerous.
Anti-depressants saved my life, and continue to in my opinion, I can’t stand how they’re talked about and lamented so often by all sorts of ‘woke’ people.

8. People die of mental illness

How different would things be if you when someone with a long history of mental illness died at their own hand we said ‘she died of depression/bipolar disorder’ instead of ‘she committed suicide’. I know not all suicides can’t be explained in this way, but many could.
I have never heard anyone say that someone died of depression, or anxiety, or schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder or anything like that. But they do, every day, and maybe if we start saying it then the ‘parity of care’ might come a step closer.
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If any of this stuff affects you please do leave a comment, but more importantly take care of yourself and ask others to when you can’t. http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx
*chill out, I take mood regulating medication, read on my friend
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Lies, damn lies and mental health promises…

theresa-may-mental-health

PM Theresa May saying nice-ish stuff about justice and mental health in an almost convincing manner.

Talk is cheap. Something I’m sure Theresa May is aware of as she continues to embark on her programme of saying nice-ish, sensible things whilst backing them up with fuck all.

Today it was all about the ‘shared society’ (very different from the ‘big society’, you understand) and reforming mental health services. Today she uttered the ground-breaking words that will, no doubt, go down in history:

“For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health.”

Well, thank God a political leader is finally talking about this… If only we’d had someone like Theresa May in a prominent cabinet position for the past six years… Oh wait… Continue reading

“No one knows why the Germanwings crash happened, so let’s not mindlessly blame depression.” (said no media outlet ever)

The crash of Germanwings flight 4U 9525 last week was a tragedy, there is no other word for it. If I were a family member of one of those killed I would want no stone left unturned in the investigation as to how and why this happened. However, I may not want the media who to keep turning those stones over and over to no end other than feeding their 24-hour rolling-news culture, with it’s signature mix of repetition and supposition.

What goes on in the mind someone who crashe Continue reading

“It’s just not good banter”: It’s Time to Talk about Mental Illness


ttt

Today is ‘Time to Talk’ day (if you’re reading this tomorrow, then it was yesterday, and you are in the future, congrats).

What? I hear you quietly mouth at your computer screen. I talk every day, I don’t need a special event. I bet it’s the greetings card companies making shit up again, you know? Like Father’s Day?

No you fools! Time to Talk Day is an actual thing set up by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to promote openness around mental health issues.  Cos they’re not the easiest thing to talk about are they? No one wants to hear their mate say they’ve been thinking a lot about suicide, or tell their girlfriend they’ve been hearing voices. Let’s face it, it’s just not good banter.

Plus the world has its fair share of people who think those with mental illness are just a bit sad and need to pull themselves together, like the rest of us! Add to that the millions of people who are sympathetic and baffled in equal measure, and talking about this stuff gets pretty scary for us crazies.

So, the idea of Time to Talk Day is that we all take 5 minutes to talk to a friend/family member/ colleague/stranger(?) about how we’re feeling, or how they’re feeling. Something a bit deeper than the weather, anyway. Or, to put it in artsy fartsy way our ‘internal weather’. I know, right? I am so deep.

Today I haven’t chatted to a friend about mental health but I’m also taking five here: 5 metaphors for depression in 5(ish) minutes. Hope you find them useful, enlightening or hilarious. Preferably all three.
Continue reading