Over the last few months in particular there has been a huge and welcome push to de-stigmatise mental health issues. There has been a wealth of celebrities getting involved and the Royal family have played their part in encouraging people to talk about mental health. The benefit of involvement of these individuals is pushing mental health to the forefront of our minds and shows that mental health affects us all and no one is immune.
The term ‘mental’ induces a range of responses from people throughout our society and for the most part it isn’t positive. This is possibly due to the different definitions applied to the term ‘mental’. We refer to people as having mental problems or a mental condition, so maybe we should change the terminology and start adopting mental health as part of our overall health; treating each person as whole. We increasingly misuse terms both with physical conditions and mental health conditions, possibly due to the amplification on social media. For example, Depression is a clinical diagnosis that has some very specific symptoms but is used to describe sadness, feeling down or low and sorrow. No doubt at times we’ve all said “I’m depressed today”.
Our lack of understanding of mental illness and its history and how mental health has been viewed and treated plays a role. We have all heard the stories of the Asylums, less than 100 years ago people were treated in the most unspeakable ways to rid them of their mental illness. Such treatments included removing patient’s teeth to remove the’ infection’ and Lobotomies which have always been controversial but were widely performed for more than 2 decades as a treatment for schizophrenia, manic depression and bipolar among other mental illnesses. People were sent to these asylums if they were viewed by society as unusual or different. It is widely documented that un-married mothers were sent to asylums. In contrast, medical treatments have come so far we are always hearing about advances in science when treating such conditions as Cancer and Heart Disease. Psychiatry doesn’t seem to have moved forward, we are still using medication to manage symptoms rather than working with the symptoms.
I’m not saying medication doesn’t play its part, just that other complimentary therapies should be more accessible and that clients /patients / service users - however we choose to describe these individuals should have more flexibility and choice in their treatment. The point here is that de-stigmatisation of mental health is needed and will no doubt help to encourage many people to seek the help and support they may need. The problem is that there is a lack of services available and these services are not accessible to all.
For many people they will finally pluck up the courage to visit their GP and then may be prescribed some form of medication such as anti-depressants and will likely be told there is a waiting list for talking therapy and only some treatments are available. It’s a process which removes choice from the individual and choice is a first step in empowering someone to play a role in their own treatment.
There is a wealth of resource on the internet, I have listed some sites that may be useful:-