Friday, 11 October 2013

Ignorance. The enemy of mental illness.

My sister Carole 9 months before her death.

Carole was one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet. The kind of person who would do anything to help even if she didn't know you. It annoyed me when we were out, you'd see people pulling their children closer to them and warning them not to go near her. Does she look scary to you? Or we would be in a shop and the assistant would say does she want anything. Why not just ask her?

Ignorance is probably the worst enemy of mental illness. People tend to be afraid of things they don't understand. We have all seen the movies and read the headlines in the papers about the crazed madman/woman on anti psychotics going on killing sprees. So, can we really blame them for thinking the way they do? Or at the other end of the scale, you get the ones who believe that because someone has a mental health problem they must be stupid too. Most people tend to believe what they are told and everything that they see. When I was growing up, the local mental health hospital was known as, 'the loony bin', it kept that label until it closed a just a few years ago. Now we have a mental health unit in the grounds of our hospital and I often hear people refer to it as 'the nut house'. Unless we educate people these attitudes will never change but, that won't be nearly as easy as it sounds.

I don't believe that many adults would be willing to learn about something they were too ignorant to believe could ever affect them. So educating the children seems to be the logical place to start. Schools already have people going in to give talks on varying subjects, so why not mental health? It would serve two purposes.

  1. They would learn that most mental health patients are more likely to hurt themselves than someone else. It could also teach them to recognise certain symptoms of mental illness. They may have been having problems themselves or are now able to see that someone else is. That understanding and knowledge could then lead to the person getting the help they need to lead better lives.
  2. Control the stigma. I say control because, I don't think it is something that will ever go away completely. You will always get people whose attitudes will never change, but, the more people who know and understand mental illness, the less the stigma will be and who knows, hopefully I could be proved wrong.
we can make a start now by educating our own children. I am, by no stretch of the imagination an expert on mental illness but, I have been around people who suffer from it all my life. I have learned a lot from that and have met some wonderful people who I am proud to call my friends. 

Thanks for reading this and before you go, have you signed my petition for a call to cahnge the mental health laws? If not you can do so here. Thank you. Call for a change in the mental health laws