Hello again 🙂
In the past month I’ve found myself engaged in quite a few conversations about mental health related illnesses, and I just wanted to share my thoughts with you guys and hear yours too!
Over the past few years, I’ve seen more and more public health campaigns about “mental health awareness”, but I still think we have a long way to go in educating the public about it. I’ve noticed a few trends in my conversations with people however:
- In black and asian communities, mental health illnesses are mostly unknown, ignored, or demonised
- I still hear stories about people who are showing clear signs of a mental health illness, but they are either ignored, hidden from the public by their families, or taken to churches or other religious and spiritual places to be exorcised of a demon. Now, I am a christian and I do believe in the miracle of healing, but not every mental health illness is a demon. I’ve heard clear cases where children are being severely disciplined for being unruly or disobedient children, when they are really just autistic. I’ve heard so many stories about children who are punished for low performance at school, when they are just dyslexic. What most breaks my heart about all of these instances is that if they were given the proper care and interventions, all the above mentioned examples would result in people who are great contributors to society, and not isolated. These people usually end up with their mental health in either a constant state of decline, or in a constant state of relapse! Why do we have to wait until someone attempts suicide before we take them seriously? Sometimes even at this point, they are only still taken to a spiritual leader to be prayed for, not even a qualified spiritual leader who is also a clinical psychiatrist who can give them both spiritual and physical help (there are plenty of these around)!
- Do you know that two of the top 10 illnesses in the afrocaribbean community are schizophrenia and depression? I believe this is because in our communities, we don’t open up and talk to each other; we bottle things up and hide! We need to get talking about our mental health and accept it.
- In English communities, mental health illnesses are more known, but still largely misunderstood
- Things like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, and autism for example, are more commonly diagnosed and talked about in the English community, however there’s still a large stigma surrounding these areas. I often hear comments like “just snap out of it” or “you’ll feel better tomorrow” or “just learn to look on the bright side” when people are talking to people who are clinically depressed. It really just isn’t that simple; it’s not just having a bad day, depression is like being drowned in a deep dark tunnel. To be honest, if you can snap out of it in a “day” then you probably weren’t actually depressed. So many biological and psychological factors contribute to depression that means you can’t just “get over it”. Chemicals in your body totally change, so it’s like seeing the world with a new dark set of glasses that you can’t take off. Be kind and gentle, be patient and understanding; the best thing you can do for someone with a mental health illness it to just be there.
- In the medical community, mental health illnesses are either largely undiagnosed and untreated, or over diagnosed and over-treated.
- I remember going to see my Dr last year because I suffer from migraine headaches, and he asked me if I knew any triggers to which I replied “when I’m working too hard or I’m too busy/run down.” We were discussing trying an alternative medication, and in response to my statement, he offered me a medication that is used to prevent migraine headaches, but that is also an antidepressant. His words were “well I’ll give you amitriptyline because it will also help with your stress and depression.” Obviously, I declined the medication and said I was not and am not depressed, it was just the normal routine of life, and sometimes you are busier than other points, so how my body responds is by having a migraine. My Dr was so quick to put me in the “depressed” category and it was so far from where I was! I also have memories of people who are on so much medication for mental health illnesses that they are literally just sedated and no longer themselves. Doctors overprescribe, and patients just take the meds until they sit lifeless. Both are just as bad as each other. I equally see people presenting to my pharmacy who clearly need a mental health intervention, and they are being turned away by their Doctors, and unfortunately, it’s too late by the time they get the help they need.
I’m writing this post to get us all thinking. If you know someone who may need help, don’t ignore it if it is in your power to influence or persuade them to get help. If you know someone with a mental health illness, speak to them! Find out what it’s like for them, and ask what you can do to help them. There are so many good resources online to learn about mental health illnesses, read them. Know the signs and symptoms and educate yourself.
Last, but most importantly – talk to someone! Even if you’re not depressed, or don’t have a mental health condition, just talk. We were given 5 senses because we are creatures of communication, sensing, and feeling. If you’re happy, share. If you’re sad, share. If you’re angry, share. Be honest with those around you and give your life some real meaning. Come away from your screens and have telephone and face-to-face conversations with people. I honestly believe that mental health conditions are on the rise because our social interactions are on the decline!