December 9, 2009

I have swine flu, AND whilst I'm more than happy to receive your messages of sympathy I'm wallowing in a vat of self pity the size of the Watford Gap which is hardly admirable, thus I hardly deserve your kind words. (grin)

I'm blogging this because I fell into a diagnostic trap - a self diagnostic trap actually. When I began to feel unwell it started as fatigue and I felt a low and automatically fell into thinking I was falling into depression, I didn't even consider that there may be a physical reason! This is something we all hear about when GP's and Psychiatrists write off physical illness as symptomatic of our Mental Health diagnosis and simply do not investigate further. I think we can all see how this occurs, since we are most likely to attend a GP because of our mental health if we have a diagnosis, and some physical conditions can hide within the symptoms of a mental illness, such as palpitations, chest pain, aches, fatigue and a whole host of other conditions which may well have more sinister underlying physical reasons for being present.

"It's a shocking fact that people with severe mental illness die 10 years younger than other people because of poor physical health. This can change - if the Government and health trusts take effective action." (RETHINK)

Sudden death from cardiovascular disease is considerably higher in people with a mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Instances of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C infection are emerging problems affecting people with long-term mental illness, and tuberculosis is more prevalent, possibly due to lifestyle and reduced immunity, and it's also been reported that people with schizophrenia may well have a higher 'pain threshold' making them less likely to attend the GP until something is particularly serious. There are also issues around communication, the actual process of physical examination for some patients all of which contribute to our not receiving the best psychical health care.

In conclusion what can WE do? I think first and foremost not fall into the self diagnostic, self-medicating trap which I am guilty of falling into this past week would be a start. I know that it is hard to discern whether I'm tired because I am physically ill or mentally unwell, but I now know I shouldn't merely assume the latter and become blase.

The change really begins with our Carer's psychiatric teams and the people supporting us to place pressure upon GP's to perform regular health checks.

"Annual health checks and providing the same level of health promotion/prevention support as received by the general population could make a significant contribution to the reduction of health inequalities" (SAINSBURYS CENTRE FOR MENTAL HEALTH).

Start now by checking out RETHINK'S Physical Health Campaign,

Looking after ourselves is key to maintaining our long term well being and extending our lives and we shouldn't become complacent.

So here's to Mental and Physical Wealth! We deserve it!

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.