Before anyone thinks this is going to be rant about race, religion or sexuality, I’m sorry to disappoint you but those are the subjects I will never address. I’m neither racist, nor sexist nor one to bash others due to their religious beliefs.
What I’m taking about it the prejudices and stigma towards those with mental illnesses, something which I have experienced firsthand.
This rant will be predominantly based on the UK, as that is where I live and often experience discrimination due to my mental health. In spite of what many say, it still exists. I assume people from all over the world suffer the same prejudices, so if you live elsewhere please share your experience. Across the pond or elsewhere, I’d love to hear your experience.
That said, let’s get to my point! What do I mean by prejudices regarding mental health? Unfortunately, as you’ve probably gathered by now, I do suffer from mental health issues and I have for the last few years. Who’d have thought a 50 something year old could experience a breakdown and decline in mental health? I sure as hell didn’t.
I will be honest to you all, before I had any issues myself, I was probably the same as any other ignorant, dismissive person. When someone said to me they were depressed, feeling down, etc. I was “typical middle management” thinking they just don’t want to work… Now, I’m ashamed of thinking like that as I realise how bad it gets. Living with mental illnesses isn’t easy.
We can all catch a cold, break a bone or have a stomach upset, to name but a few, yes, but these are visible so we all accept them; they are physical, easily recognisable so people believe them. I personally have to see mental health workers on a regular basis, and I would never question the work they achieve or the help they are trying to give me. Poor health, be it mentally or physically, is unavoidable.
I won’t try and hide my issues, but without going into to much personal info (which will bore you to death) I will say I’m sorry for my pre-conceptions before mental illnesses impacted me personally. Yes, I have spent time on a psychiatric ward and continue to see psychiatrists and mental health workers on a regular basis. I’m not a closed book by any means, so feel free to ask.
Fortunately, in this country, we have the NHS whom do a wonderful job, despite their limited resources. (Thanks to a totally useless government who would rather argue amongst themselves like five year olds than actually address issues that could affect themselves or their families at anytime!) Obviously I would not wish ill mental health on anyone!
Anyway, back to the issue at hand, without waffling about governmental misgivings again, being someone who struggles everyday to leave the house or get though the night on a regular basis, I find it so disheartening when I do go out only to hear a local manager of a Tesco openly telling a customer “I don’t think mental disability is valid, at least i can see a physical disability”. Really? No disrespect to my local Tesco shop as it’s the only shop I seem to capable of using and most the staff are fantastic, but this was uncalled for. Just because it’s a MENTAL illness, doesn’t make it any less devastating. It’t still uncalled for. Call it naivety on his part or down right prejudice, but really? I thought we’d moved past this as a society.
I have issues with my eating so I am quite slim, not through personal choice, it’s just how my head works. Does that make me any less respectful to “fat” people? No. That said, I don’t tell every shop keeper who is carrying a few extra pounds he is overweight! So, what right do people have to comment on my mental ability just because it’s an invisible illness?
We live in an ever changing society in which everyone is entitled to their opinion. I respect that, but thanks to prejudices, the “casual comments” from others seem to be getting worse on a daily basis.
Despite the fact someone suffering from mental health issues is seen to be OK because they look “OK”, anyone knowing someone who suffers from PTSD, Anxiety, Depression or any other mental illness will understand just because they look “OK” that doesn’t make them alright. invisible physically to the human eye doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!
In all honesty, our health system is getting pushed to breaking point. The obesity and unwanted pregnancies, to name but a few. (Let’s be fair, these issues seem to be prevalent in the UK at the moment.) We have a disability program in this country which, without sounding pompous is probably one of the best in the world, which condemns you with interviews and decisions in regards to whether you deserve help or not. Let’s face it – these are ALL based on your physical attributes; let’s be honest, NO mental illness is VISIBLE. That alone is prejudice in itself.
I have been fortunate enough to know a few Gulf War Vets, who honesty are probably some of the most physically fit people you could ever meet. BUT, and this is my main point here, as far as life goes, they are completely unable to function on a daily basis due to their poor mental health. They have suffered in protecting this country and others.
This is where my rant takes a totally different level, I will return to myself as a subject matter again without going into detail. Basically, I suffer from severe anxiety which prevents me from leaving my house, but because I am physically fit. AND THIS STOPS ME GETTING HELP. BECAUSE I’M “PHYSICALLY FIT”… This stops me from getting help, whereas someone overweight (not down to any determined health issues) will receive help because they can’t walk ten paces without a stick. They are able to claim help and benefits and it disgusts me. I didn’t choose to be mentally ill, yet I still can’t receive the help I need.
I have lost friends due to the lack of help they have received, God rest their souls, and they will never be forgotten! Don’t get me wrong, they deserved more help than me, but it doesn’t make it right that someone who isn’t prepared to help themselves with their physically health (which will help with their mental health) gets seen as a more worthwhile case than a non-physically impaired person. We are left to die in solitude, whereas if we ate a few more burgers and fries we might be seen as worthwhile.