June 27, 2012

Photo of flameThat feeling, the one on the underground, as the doors slam shut and the train pulls away. You are left stood on an empty platform, the faces of the passengers squeezed into each carriage speeding past, as they begin getting on with their day, their life, and you’re left stood there, alone: your life is on hold.

Mental illness for me is not dissimilar, for the past seven years I’ve been left stood on that platform, as people come and go, trains arrive and pull away, and lives move on, well, all except mine that is.

The isolation and the frustration merged with the saddening reality of who really cares. Their faces taunting me as I’m left behind once again. The screams of the wheels and tracks echoing that of the thoughts whizzing round my head, and the misunderstanding of everyone around. They can’t conceptualise my increasingly desperate need for someone to hold my hand and guide me on. I’m just the loner, left as everyone else carries on.

Stigma; it’s... a term no one can really explain

Stigma; it’s that term that gets batted around constantly, and it’s a term no one can really explain. Probably, because for me, it is a feeling that cannot be contained in a word. That total sense of isolation and misunderstanding; of being victimised, not because you are bad, or because you have done wrong, but because you are different, because you do not fit into the confines of society’s expectations.

Much like life on the underground, my life in the last seven years has been made up of people coming and going as they begin to see that I am in that group of people classed as “mentally ill.” I’m dangerous, a psycho, an attention seeker and control freak. My behaviour is silly, pathetic, manipulative and immature. I’m anorexic, psychologically damaged, mental and disordered.

If someone had explained to me at 13 the power of stigma, how much it can affect how you perceive yourself and also how others perceive you, I couldn’t have believed it.

Stigma is an incredibly powerful thing, turned inwards it can continue propelling you into that vicious cycle of self hatred and the belief that in fact you are worthless. Directed towards you it can cause isolation, withdrawal and anger. If someone had explained to me at 13 the power of stigma, how much it can affect how you perceive yourself and also how others perceive you, I couldn’t have believed it. Only now at 22, can I understand how much damage it can do.

Thursday 28th June marks the launch of the Time to Change children and young people’s stream of work in Birmingham. A development that will see the stigma tackled in an age group that is hugely affected by mental illness and the connotations attached to it, but yet are so often ignored.

what about those young people to afraid to speak up?

The wellbeing of young people is something that is repeatedly highlighted and is being tackled by multiple charities and professionals; the idea of hearing young people’s voices in services and campaigns is becoming forefront in national policies and procedures, and is a cause I greatly support. However, what about those young people to afraid to speak up, those to afraid of becoming a victim to the stigma that is still so heavily associated with mental illness, what about their voice?

Time to Change is their voice, led by young people I really hope that the barriers built up, the perceptions and stereotypes that have been formed, will begin to be broken down.

mental illness isn’t fussy about who it affects and nor is stigma.

How many more young people will have to be left stranded at platforms as their peers, move on? For how many more young people will the screech of the wheels and tracks simulate that of the vicious words cursing through their heads? How many more young people will be left feeling utterly alone, betrayed and ignored? It is time we all begin to challenge that illusive thing called stigma, and begin to actively make things better for every generation, because mental illness isn’t fussy about who it affects and nor is stigma.

It’s time to talk, it’s time to change.

What do you think about the issues raised in this blog? Share your views with us on Twitter >>

Or pledge to share your experience of mental health today and find out how talking tackles discrimination.


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.