There is more to mental ill-health than just depression and anxiety and we all need to talk about it
Today, as I made my journey into the city to study at the library (because, you know, it's exam season and all), I encountered what is probably an everyday situation to many people around the UK and the world. However, it was not just the fact that I had witnessed this situation. What was more shocking was the fact that throughout it, and particularly at the end of the encounter, I realised that I too was part of the problem. Shamefully.
Today on the Jubilee line, at around 2 pm in the afternoon, I witnessed one of the biggest issues surrounding mental health and mental ill-health at the moment - a lack of understanding and education.
It is incredibly important that, together as a society, we are opening up more about mental health and wellbeing and that we are starting to have conversations, real conversations, about mental health and wellbeing. However, far too often you will notice that the conversation or the discussion only goes so far. You will notice that the conversation will often stop at just illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Yet, sadly, despite the fact that we say all mental illnesses and mental ill-health are stigmatised, you will quickly realise they are not.
If you just stop for a second and truly think about some events you have been to, some of the stories and experiences you have read in the media or even some conversations you have had about mental health and wellbeing, you will quickly realise that you too could be part of the problem.
Far too often we accept the more *and I say this with utmost compassion* "socially acceptable" mental illnesses the more "commonly mentioned and talked about mental illnesses" or the more 'tolerable" illnesses to society such as depression and anxiety. But we never do really open up the dialogue to discuss more difficult, more extreme illnesses, such as neurodevelopmental disorders, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, bipolar and related disorders or dissociative disorders, to name just a few.
But this needs to stop.
Today I was part of the problem because I wasn't educated, or I guess brave enough to speak out about the injustice I saw. Today, I was part of the problem because I just sat and watched instead of aiding both the patient and the members of the public who were, like many of us (myself included), incredibly ignorant to the ways you are supposed to aid someone suffering or offer help by signposting to the right services or staff.
When a very poorly male of African descent was having what seemed like an episode in the middle of the carriage on the Jubilee line, instead of being helped he was laughed at. He was sighed at, repetitively hissed at and several eyes were being rolled at him. Really and truly all he needed was for someone, rather for us all, to create a safe space for him. A space built on compassion, kindness and one of actual care.
We all had a responsibility on that tube and I am so disappointed that I waited until the very end to intervene. And this is exactly where I realised I was even more of the problem. Instead of aiding the patient, I went straight to one of the passengers on the train who had suffered some verbal abuse and interrogation from the man and I commended her for her patience. As much as this was a good gesture because she did handle the situation very well by remaining calm and patient and, to a certain extent ignored him, it wasn't her who was the victim. It was him. And that is where I feel like I let him down the most. Of course, no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but we can all do much better.
YOU CAN MAKE A CHANGE, AND IT STARTS NOW
I want to challenge you all, myself included, to start educating ourselves more about all the types of mental illnesses and disabilities, and to make sure that we too can be of some aid to anyone who may be struggling in public.
I also want to challenge you all to join the team and myself as we campaign for everyone in the UK to receive some form of basic mental first aid training. Because I can guarantee, if at least three people on that carriage were MHFA trained, to some degree, the whole encounter would have ended very differently.
I want to challenge you all to start thinking about different experiences within the mental illness domain. Mental illness does not discriminate and it is not a one size fits all. This man certainly experienced more discrimination today, possibly one of the worst I had ever seen and this was particularly down to his race.
Lastly, I want us to remember that not all mental illnesses are visible and not all mental illnesses appear the way they seem. Please always remember to be mindful and respectful. It is something so little but can go an extremely long way.
Reducing and combating stigma is not just about having more conversations and publicising mental health more in mainstream media. Reducing stigma is also about learning. It is about taking action and by doing this, you too can take the real action needed to battle all types of mental health and illness stigma.
Like the title says, there is more to mental ill-health than just depression and anxiety
And we all need to start talking about it, together.
To find out more about the work we do, please head over to www.mymindmatterstoo.com
For some useful resources and informational packs about mental health and mental illness please check out: