Tuesday, 16 July 2013

New ways of thinking about Mental Health

Every single one of us is potentially a ‘mental health patient’. We all have our issues, the problems we hide from, the challenges that make us feel less than perfect, the past experiences we don’t want to face. All of these threaten our mental health, our emotional stability, our perceived survival.

This is all perfectly normal, I say it again; we all, each and every one of us have our own demons to overcome. It is when our daily struggles become categorised as mental illness or symptoms of such that we really struggle to accept our frailty and any diagnosis along with it.

What’s worse is most of us try to bear our pain alone, not seeking help, because we don’t want to be labelled as ‘mentally ill.’

It’s not the image we want others to have of us, it’s a label we reject as it still carries such a stigma within our culture, within families, within our own psyche, and we’ll do all we can to avoid it. Including self medicating with alcohol, food, drugs, self-harming, whatever gets us through the day.

What’s worse is the diagnosis, the treatment and any care given by professionals perpetuates the situation by treating our ‘clinical disorders’ and ‘mental illness’, instead of providing simple solutions that help maintain a healthy emotional lifestyle to begin with.

We walk around labelling ourselves with jargon out of psychiatric textbooks, ‘I’m bipolar with attachment disorder and personality dysfunction’ and we live from the label not from ourselves and who we really are.

When really, the problem is we have unresolved issues of childhood abuse, or we have little to no self esteem, struggling with speaking up and being heard, with valuing our experience and opinions.

 The best help available is that which is early, in recognising the signs that we need support before we hit crisis point and mental collapse, and in finding that help without needing to label ourselves as ‘mentally ill’ or in some way damaged or deficient.

If we could seek help just because we are finding it hard to cope with a stressful work or home situation, rather than having to be labelled as ‘depressed’ then surely, we’d look for help sooner?

Support groups for relationship problems, work issues, parenting and family struggles, body and self care issues seem to me rather less threatening to my self-image than those with more clinical descriptions and names.

The fundamental to mental health is emotional wellbeing, and to achieve emotional wellbeing we must find support in our areas of personal challenge, to be able to engage in conversations with experts and each other to share and learn and grow stronger, building social experiences and relationships that are therapeutic and empowering.

 Let’s stop disempowering those who are struggling by labelling them as dysfunctional and ‘ill’ and instead have services that support the person in pain, services that dramatically improve mental health care.