There is still negativity when mental illness is put in the spotlight

 In Emotional Life

Mental illness isn’t something that we should sweep under the rug, but why when someone is brave enough to speak up about theirs do they cop negativity from the general public.

I was watching 60 minutes (which is rare) a little while back and I saw the feedback section about a story they ran the previous week. They had interviewed a woman who suffers from Dissociative identity disorder and some of the comments people made were disgusting. They claimed it was a lie, that she was acting and one commenter claimed that what is being called multiple personality disorder the commenter calls mood swings. Thankfully Peter Overton dealt with these comments the best way you can, although it won’t change the people’s minds, by picking up the diagnostics manual that all psychiatrists use and pointing out that Dissociative Identity Disorder is a recognised diagnosis.

Thankfully my faith in the Australian public was restored as there were also commenters who showed compassion, love and support for this woman, with one saying they thought this woman was brave for going on television and shining a light on this disorder.

This just highlights that mental illness, mental health and diseases that can’t be technically seen when diagnosed are still treated with such contempt by large parts of society. We are better than we were previously but that’s just not good enough. We live in a society that is ever changing and fast paced and that can trigger and incite mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders yet we still tell people suffering these to get over it.

thinkingMental illness is no joke and the discrimination suffered by those with these illnesses is absolutely despicable. As a sufferer of depression and anxiety, when I am not feeling my best I am often told to cheer up or to just move on or get over it. These are not helpful words for a person whose mind, and the chemicals in their brain, is working against the logical part of their brain to try and keep them in a certain state of mind. No person with a mental health issue -no matter how minor it may seem to you- can just get over it. If that would work, there would be no mental health issues in the world as we would all have gotten over them.

There are a lot of positives and negatives to having access to the internet when it comes to mental illness or health in general. I’m sure Dr Google has caused a spike in ER visits for people who feel unwell and then find that their symptoms also match that of some horrendous unpronounceable disease. But the positives are great, including the ability to contact mental health professionals anonymously, allowing people to avoid any stigma that may come from visiting a psychologist in person. This anonymity does flow both ways with the rise of internet trolls that have contributed to an increase in depression and suicides — the beautiful Charlotte Dawson just one famous example of this.

Another thing I love about the internet in regards to mental health is its ability to also inform people, and I am not just talking about direct websites and initiatives to make people better informed about mental illness. But more specifically, internet memes that use humour to better explain mental illness to those who may not fully understand it. My favourite that I often see around is a cartoon of someone telling a gunshot victim or a cancer patient or some other horrible injury that can be seen to ‘just get over it.’ This, of course, links back to how often people with mental illness or mental health issues are told to get over it, or that it’s all in their head. Imagine telling a cancer patient or sufferer of HIV that it’s all in their head. Although technically mental illness is in our heads, it’s just as hard to recover from as other diseases.

mental health monthMost other diseases are able to be fixed as there is usually some form of physical damage to an organ or body part, break a leg get it set and the leg becomes unbroken. Have cancer removal of this means you are likely to mean you don’t have cancer anymore, of course, there is a lot that makes the cancer be removed from the body but you get the idea. With a mental health issue you are dealing with the brain, this is the most complicated organ in the human body. This isn’t something we can just blast radio waves at and fix or do a surgery and fix, due to the complicated nature of the brain medical science needs to tread carefully when working with it. As doing something in one area can have a huge impact on another. Also the fact that despite decades of scientific study we as a species still don’t fully understand all of the brain, there are parts I am sure we don’t even know what they do. As much as there is a huge outpouring of wanting some way to help and even heal mental illnesses and mental health issues in the world its not as easy as just changing the brain.

Professor Joe Herbert is an emeritus professor of neuroscience at the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair at the University of Cambridge and wrote this essay Cracking the skull open for aeon.co about why we can’t treat mental illness by fixing the brain.

mental health month

I am often saddened by about how mental illnesses are received in the general public, like the one above I saw on 60 minutes. In this world where access to all the world’s knowledge is in the palm of our hands (quite literally with smartphones) how can people still remain so ignorant? The sad answer and truth is that it’s all by choice. People choose not to look for the truth or the answer or the information.

One of my deepest beliefs is that knowledge is power and without it, we succumb to others who have it and therefore give up all our power. So I implore any and all of you to go out there and reach out to people you know or don’t know, to see if there is anything you can do to be of service to them. Find out what other things in this world you can know to be a better mother, sister, brother, father, son, daughter, friend, lover, partner, and most of all a better human being. Go and empower yourself with knowledge. This way, the next time you see discrimination in any of its vile forms, you can use this knowledge to make the world a better place. And don’t we all want that?

If you or someone you know is suffering please contact one of the mental health assistance companies out there such as the below:

Lifeline

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Kids Helpline

Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800

Headspace

Headspace – 1800 650 890

beyondblue

beyondblue – 1300 22 4636

Black Dog Institute

Black Dog Institute

mensline-australia

Mensline Australia – 1300 78 99 78

ReachOut

ReachOut

Please reach out if you need help we can’t lose any more beautiful souls from this world and your soul is beautiful.


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Showing 4 comments
  • Shane Prather
    Reply

    So powerfully written! I agree that stigma still exists and people who suffer are scared to talk about it. We need to lift these people up instead of putting them down <3

    • Jodie
      Reply

      Hi Shane,

      Thank you for your kind words and I completely agree we need to lift all people up but we definitely need to get rid of the stigma around mental health issues and remember they are suffering just like someone with a physical disease.

      <3
      Jodie

  • Joleene
    Reply

    It’s unfortunate that the stigma still exists. I feel the same way about addiction. I think what people don’t understand scares them. Thank you for a powerful post.

    • Jodie
      Reply

      Hi Joleene,

      Thank you for your kind words and I completely agree if people don’t understand something they just dismiss it, with physical illness there is usually something tangible people can latch onto. With mental health issues, of which I would include addiction as that is a lot to do with what’s going on in the head, because there is nothing you can actually see if you don’t experience it you don’t understand it and therefore it scares you.

      Love
      Jodie

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