October 8, 2014

With the recent, tragic death of well known and much loved celebrity, Robin Williams, covered so extensively in the media, I have noticed family and friends slowly coming to realise that mental health problems can be experienced by anyone. While the detailed reporting in this case was a little concerning, overall I feel the way in which the media tells these unfortunate stories seems to have changed dramatically in recent years. Reports are often composed with more compassion and understanding, and largely devoid of any negative assumptions, particularly with regards to depression and suicide.

It’s the small things that matter

Since mental health problems are now being discussed more widely in mainstream media, my family and friends have been willing to talk more openly with me about my issues. The walls are coming down. I feel as though, more and more, mental health problems are being treated much like any physical illness – we can discuss it, we can treat it, we can live with it.

It’s the small things that matter. When I need to fill out a form and disclose whether I have a disability, I’m pleased to see that ‘mental health difficulties’ is now an option I can select where it wasn’t in the past. Due to campaigns by organisations such as Time to Change, I’m no longer ashamed to talk about and disclose my mental health problems. Recently, when applying for a voluntary position, I was even asked, ‘Is there anything we can do to help you cope better in the role?’ Now, more than ever, I’m being treated with the same level of respect as someone with a physical disability.

Now, more than ever, I’m being treated with the same level of respect as someone with a physical disability

I used to worry that, even if I did disclose my mental health problems, no one would understand exactly what I was going through. A distinction is being made between ‘feeling down’ and having clinical depression. Slowly but surely, having suicidal thoughts isn’t considered a selfish idea; people realise that it’s far more complicated than that. I’m becoming less ashamed of my self-harm scars, and although people still stare, their looks are those of sympathy and understanding rather than disgust or disappointment.

Things have definitely changed for the better but I still think there’s a long way to go

With regards to my eating disorder, I don’t feel like there is as much pressure for me to hide my illness. When I’m out with family and friends they understand that eating is sometimes difficult for me and cater for my needs depending on the situation. They no longer treat me as if I’m just being difficult and it’s actually had a really positive effect on my willingness to socialise out in public.

Things have definitely changed for the better but I still think there’s a long way to go. On a recent trip to the doctor, upon telling her that I suffer with Borderline Personality Disorder, I was asked whether I’d had much involvement with the police. I was so taken aback by her comment that my jaw fell open; I was so offended. Of course, I’ve never been in trouble with the law; having Borderline Personality Disorder means that I struggle with interpersonal relationships and intense emotions, it doesn’t make me a criminal.

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.


Coming Out with Depression

Well done you for having the bravery to come out. I have suffered and hidden my depression for the last twenty years, but this year finally came out to family members and close friends. For me, the hardest thing has been building up the courage to come out to work colleagues - or work in general, having experienced discrimination in the past. After seeing my psychiatrist last week on World Mental Health day and after suffering a near-death accident recently I decided to start fighting the stigma and trying to stop being afraid. We all have to stand together and I'm glad people like you are doing it. Well done! I described my experience - which involved bullying at work - in my blog www.haslaptopwilltravel.blogspot.com. I hope you'll check it out and wish you all the best for the future. Jessica

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