Mental Health: People with mental ill-health are not crazy
Here’s a thing. If someone you knew told you that they had twisted their ankle, would you automatically assume that they couldn’t walk? That they couldn’t stand? That you shouldn’t ask them to do anything that involved moving, because now that they had an injury they couldn’t be trusted to do anything physical to an acceptable standard? Do you think that if this was the attitude towards people with twisted ankles, that maybe they would start to get fed up and paranoid about how people would treat them? Maybe they would stop telling people that they had got injured and would suffer in silence, making the injury worse just to be accepted into everyday society.
This is the kind of nonsense that people with mental illness face every day. Let’s get one thing straight:
Mentally ill people are not crazy. They are not untrustworthy. They are not off the wall. They are not automatically going to act weird or be unable to do certain things.
You know what they say about ‘don’t assume’, right? It makes an ASS out of U and ME? Well I don’t love cliches, but shave me down and call me a molerat if that one doesn’t have something to it.
There is unfortunately, because of an endemic flaw in the way that mental illness is presented within the media, this general idea that if someone is mentally ill they are not really there; that they don’t have full capacity and are essentially a bit less human than a mentally healthy person.
That’s not gonna fly here, son. I am a bit fan of facts, and the fact is that 20-25% of adults are affected by mental illness every year. That’s one in every four or five people. If we all went totally bonkers whenever we got mentally ill, the world just wouldn’t function. You probably work with someone having mental health problems right now, yet 90% of people going through it experience discrimination and stigma.
This has to change. Of course there are some people for whom psychotic illness is a factor, and behaviour stemming from certain conditions can be difficult to live with. When you are living with mental illness and you can’t talk abut it because you are worried about upsetting your family and disrupting work or schoolwork and being isolated from your friends- that pushes people to behave in a way that they would never usually act.
The pressure to keep quiet in an already agonising situation is insane. If we were able to chat about mental health in the same way we chat about sports injuries or weird moles or eye tests, maybe people with mental health problems wouldn’t feel like an alien and like they don’t belong in the world.
It is my experience that people act, eventually, in the way that they are treated. If we continue to act as though mental health issues are shameful and weak, we are setting people up for failure and isolation. It’s time to change the conversation.
If you or loved one are experiencing difficulties with mental health, visit the Time To Change resources page for telephone numbers of people who can help.
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Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.