I've been really impressed by the Rethink campaign highlighting the stigma of mental illness and calling for change.
It's made me think a lot about stigma, and I definitely listen to peoples views on madness and mental illness more closely. My basic conclusion is that the campaign is well overdue, but I think it's a huge undertaking.
Recently I've heard friends, sometimes very close friends using the words 'mad' and 'mental' to describe people, I sit there tense and wonder what they think of me. Did they gather when I was sectioned and use those words to describe me? because I am not mad and I am not mental, I suffer from a mental illness and that's a very different way of describing things.
I do feel the stigma surrounding my illness, when I've been in hospital only those closest to me know, everyone else thinks I've just 'gone away' for a couple of weeks/months. I'm terrified of putting my diagnosis down on paper, such as application forms for jobs or other paperwork and I tend to avoid stories and anecdotes about people with mental illness. I worry about the time when I start a family, I know that because of my history all the professionals will know about my diagnosis and a pre birth conference will take place to assess my needs as a parent with mental illness. I'm considering going back to work at the moment after 7 months off but am terrified about disclosing to potential employers.
I should confront people more with their opinions on mental illness, perhaps fly the flag a bit more but it's difficult. I already have the routine of trying to hide my self harm scars and explaining why I can't socialise in the ways I perhaps did in the past.
It's not just wider society that stigmatises, it's rampant in the medical world too. Once I was admitted to A & E with severe abdominal pains and vomiting, I was given an enti-emetic which gave me terrible allergic reaction. The first reaction of the nurses was to call the shrink as they thought it was some sort of 'mental episode', it took 90 minutes for someone to realise and give me the antidote. I've also read posts by medical bloggers describing psych patients, one found a persons manic episode 'amusing'.
So, in conclusion, I salute the Rethink campaign but we've a mountain to climb.
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