The other day I teased a male friend of mine who was putting on weight by saying “when’s it due?”, implying that it looked as if he was pregnant. He snapped back “the same time as your lobotomy”, to which I replied “How do you know I haven’t had one?” We are still very good friends.

The mentally ill often have to develop a very dark sense of humour as a coping strategy but it is not unique. I think it is shared by many in the emergency services, armed forces, medical teams and even by politicians; anyone, in fact, who has trouble being understood, acknowledged, considered or heard properly.

For me the greater part of my journey and by far the hardest part of the battle has been the fight against the stigma over the mentally ill. It is prejudice. Its grip is so strong that it is even present among the mentally ill themselves.

It is curious to me that society and the world is also so fearful of its own actions in response to the mentally ill that is chooses to ignore us and walk away, thereby not only perpetuating the problem but escalating it.

I am writing this article to share some of the rebuttals to stigma I’ve personally used.

"I may be crazy, but at least I'm not inconsiderate or uncaring."

"No one is immune from mental illness, just as no one is immune from a stomach ulcer, cancer or heart disease. We can all help to prevent and support people though."

"Only the extreme tragedies are reported in the news, never the success stories, or those who take control of their condition“

The only way to break this vicious cycle is to talk. Not shout or scream but to hone and keep honing the manner in which we communicate. The pitfall being that talking can become all we ever do and that mental illness can become the only thing we ever think about. Not for me though... even though it is never far from my thoughts. Nor will I make it my excuse for everything that I do or for all that befalls me as that is unrealistic too. Sometimes it is, mostly it is not because... I am not an illness.

In truth, I can no more fully understand a life that is without mental illness than a person who has not suffered from it can properly understand one with it. By the same token those of us who are not paraplegic or suffering from cancer etc can never fully appreciate what such a life as that is like. For the most part we all just get on with life as it is or should do, but in many ways there are elements of life such as fear and prejudice that should not be and should never have been a part of anyone’s life.

Whatever your life history there is a crossover; a common ground, as mental well being is something every single one of us wants to achieve and yearns for most. Keep talking for as long as you are able, as through communicating we can all learn. That for me is the key that will hopefully unlock many a door to yield much better solutions and a far, far happier world for all.

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From the contributors to Mindwalking

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