We still need to change out attitudes to mental health

Mental health image of brain
Image: iStock

Content warning: This post briefly talks about suicide and may be distressing to some readers.

People were shocked and saddened to hear about the recent passing of fashion designer, Kate Spade and celebrity chef and media personality Alan Boudain.

There has been well – meaning outpouring of grief and awareness about mental illness.

Encouragement to get help for mental illness in the aftermath of a suicide and standing in solidarity with surviving loved ones and those struggling is great. However, it’s often not consistent. Earlier this year, ’90’s pop star, Mariah Carey came out saying she’d been suffering bipolar disorder for nearly twenty years. A number of responses on social media was that of disbelief. People accused Carey of using it as an excuse for the demise of her singing career.

Australian celebrities haven’t been free from this scrutiny. I was appalled by some of the reactions to tennis champion, Bernard Tomic when he admitted that he was struggling mentally shortly after appearing on I”m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!

And that’s not all. Over the years, people with mental health issues have been mocked. There have been suggestions that mental illness has become ‘fashionable‘. Um, what?

In the aftermath of the deaths of Boudain and Spade as well as countless others, isn’t it obvious that we need people to admit when they are struggling? Even if they aren’t clinically depressed or have anxiety disorder (or have yet to be diagnosed officially)? We do! We can’t make people feel like they have to go through these struggles alone.

We can debate about treatments for depression; whether medication is always the answer, whether Attention Deficit and Hyper Active Disorder (ADHD) can be treated without Ritalin, or the role of the pharmaceutical industry in over prescribing medication, whether some mental issues can be eliminated (or at least better controlled) by change in environment, etc. What we don’t need is people  accusing those who open up about mental health issues of faking it or seeking attention.

Over the years, articles have been written to spot ‘signs’ that a person is faking their mental illness. This topic has fired up both mental illness sufferers and therapists on YouTube alike.

Mental illness is real. Most people who open up about mental health issues are not making it up (Kati Morton briefly touches the topic of Munchausen Syndrome, where someone may exaggerate or make up symptoms. I’m guessing that they’d be in the teeny tiny minority). To  be honest, it can be easy to misdiagnose yourself. You may feel down for a while and suspect you have depression, but then things become better after a while. That’s why to be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms will be consistent over a number weeks (about six) before you get officially diagnosed and, sometimes, medicated for depression (I’m guessing it’s similar to other disorders like bipolar, anxiety, etc).

 

The  stigma around mental illness needs to stop. It’s deadly. Be there for loved ones who are struggling and encourage them to get help. If you’re suffering yourself, please get help. You’re not alone.

If you are struggling and you live in Australia, you can contact LIfeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue via their web chat or 1300  224 636. If you are in an emergency situation, call 000 (if you’re in the US, 911 and UK, 999 or 112 (the last number is for members of the EU).

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