In this wonderful age of easy to access information, there are countless points of reference to learn about all facets of our psychological wellbeing, and about when we are less well! Can we then, now celebrate our journey into reduced stigma?
Yes… and a big no!
As a collective campaign via all those with a specific interest in mental health, for those who will become affected, by own challenges or those of others, we jointly have the opportunity to educate, thus reduce stigma, in the fastest time frame, never before possible. Some will want to learn more but most, I fear, will only do so when the need becomes present!
Just some small but vital examples of providers of education…
(It’s okay, no one can hear you. Be honest!)
“Unpleasant” “Failure” “Someone else” “Not me” “Weak” “Dangerous”
“Threatened” “Anxious” “Angry” “Untrustworthy” “I just don’t understand”
When we use our senses for the first time in a new situation, or meeting a new person, it’s a little scary, right? As you get to ‘know’ that environment, that person, it becomes less so, and you relax more, also true, huh? If you gain a person in your circle of friends or colleagues who has a physical disability, or has an unusual appearance, the strength of your views diminished with time; I think that is also true.
So how about we learn to grow our own trust in the things that are less obvious to our eyes, although we can ‘see’ mental illness, very much so, and learn to trust in that individual who is suffering enough with their own very real and tangible challenges, and of which are otherwise exacerbated considerably by a cold or judge-mental or prejudicial behaviour?
We choose to behave in a way that is judging others everyday. It is our weakness and lack of awareness, indeed lack of compassion that is otherwise available and innate in all of us which allows this to continue.
It is not outside of us, the challenges to our senses and beliefs, they are within – we truly do get to choose! It takes a little focus, then practice to then let go of that ‘fear’ of what you may not understand, that is rarely a true threat.
You can say very little if you wish, but look on with compassion, rather than sympathy, pity, or anxiety. Acknowledge they are a person with an injury, an illness – no more, no less than a person with a temporary or permanent physical and easy to recognise difference in their appearance.
We ask, comfortably and with ‘sympathy’, in a genuinely interested, inquisitive way… “Oh, poor thing, how did that happen, or how did you do that?” Interestingly, those are very similar words, often used at some stage by people who help many of those suffering mental health challenges!
Does that make you think? Does that make sense?
Learning From the Voices in My Head
Finally, service provision for cases such as the one in the short video below are usually outside of my scope of practice. However, the 6 minute video here demonstrates beautifully just how those who become very unwell can be let down by the very people entrusted to help, at the point of greatest need, and yet a positive outcome did become available.