Day 18: What do you wish people would understand in regards to mental illness and/or mental health?
I know there are posters all over the place about how 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental illness in their life-time. I know that there are flyers saying “You Don’t Need to be Mentally Ill to Experience Mental Illness”. I know that T.V. soaps, etc, make a point of including characters with mental health problems.
But what I don’t think people understand is:
1) How genuinely common mental health problems are, how likely it is that they know someone with a mental health problem, or have experienced/ will experience one themselves. It stops people being able to talk freely about their own or someone else’s problems because there is still stigma attached to mental health problems, and there is still a lack of understanding about what it means to have a mental health problem. I wish people would understand that they can talk about it. I wrote last year about how much of a boost it was to have someone ask how I had been, and where, and then not be surprised or appalled by the answers. It is absolutely fine to ask the question: be prepared for someone not to want to talk about it, but don’t be embarrassed for having asked. Be prepared for the truth, or a watered down version of it, and try not to be too shocked. Talk about it; it’s OK.
2) That some mental health problems do not go away. Most can be managed effectively, yes. But some are life-long conditions that, while they can be managed and treated, do not disappear just because we might like them to. I will always have bipolar (given they don’t find a cure within my lifetime) and I have learned to be OK with that. I wish others would recognise that it won’t go away like a cold or a broken ankle. It will always be there, I will always have it. I will probably always have a drinking problem, even when I am not drinking problematically. (That does make sense, think about it).
I know when my little sister was diagnosed with Diabetes 1, the first question everyone asked was whether it does or can go away by itself. It doesn’t; it can’t. As much as we would love it to. Mental health problems can be like that, and no amount of wishing, or shouting, or crying, can ever change that. So it would be nice if people would understand that, and not say things like “Yeah but you’re OK now,” or “It’ll get better with time” or “It was just something you went through, y’know.” Because that isn’t how it works. My uncle once said I was “through it” now and true, I was through the horrible patch of self-destruction and wild mood swings. But you don’t get over it. You learn to cope, you learn to be well, you learn to live.
I’m probably not expressing myself very well here. What I really mean is that
1) I wish people would talk about it and
2) I wish people were better informed about it.
3) It isn’t a form of attention-seeking, OK?