July 15, 2013

When one shouts the phrase “mental health” a sudden cold breeze enters the atmosphere. But why does this cold breeze seem to consume the majority of us? After all 1 in 4 people suffer with a mental health problem.

The documentary is about young people and mental health

This year the BBC aired a documentary series following the lives of young people in the McGuiness unit Manchester, who struggle with their mental health. I have been following the series not only to focus on whether it fairly represents the young but also to follow the story of Beth, whose experience is similar to mine.

For as long as I can recall I have struggled with eating. At the age of 4 I was taken to local dietician with my mum to try and solve my issue with food. Little did I know that this struggle would remain with me even now at the age of 16. My Anorexia Nervosa has led me to become obsessed with not eating; self-harming if I do, leaving me depressed with life with the occasional suicidal thought that lingers in my mind, similar to Beth.

Beth contradictions stereotypes about depression

Beth is only a year older than I am, and this year stayed on the McGuiness unit for up to 6months. She took the courageous decision to go to the hospital to get her life back on track. This is something that truly inspires me. She is portrayed as an extrovert like me who contradicts the stereotype of a sufferer of depression.

In the final episode we see the turmoil of emotions that she experiences as she gets angered by the change in medication, self-harms, then starts to improve her eating, finds a little love and happily finds the path to recovery. I can empathise with Beth as it is truly a struggle for people with anorexia to repair their relationship with food, as sufferers feel as though they’re failing by eating.

I think that the BCC have fairly represented her story

I think that the BCC have fairly represented her story, enabling viewers to see her struggles through her eyes as well as the doctors. Nonetheless, her experience doesn’t fairly represent the experience of all people living with anorexia. For example, my eating problem is fuelled by my obsessive need to gain control over aspects of my life, which I don’t feel is explored in the programme

Beth is treated fairly on the ward like all patients; the doctors do what is best for her by placing her under the Mental Health Act and ‘Rainbow’ programme to help with her eating. However, the Mental Health Act is portrayed as something sinister in the programme from my point of view. I believe it is a tool that can be used to help guide the young onto the path of recovery and should be portrayed in a more positive light. The act is not fairly portrayed in this programme in my opinion.

It didn't show the stigma surrounding self-harm

Sadly, there is still a lot of stigma around mental health and some was not expressed in this programme. The show didn’t focus on the stigma surrounding self-harm which recently has blown up in the media. I faced stigma because of it as people on the outside saw it as “ridiculous” and “pointless”, but many young people use it as a coping method, that helps to release pain, which people need to understand. However, the programme does highlight that anyone can have a mental problem.

I know we are human and it is in our nature to judge those that are around us whether we like it or not. But remember we all have a mental health; it is just 1 in 4 people whose mental health is poorly. So we should respect and support each other as this stigma against mental health is not necessary. As the programme highlights, there is a light at the end of a dark tunnel for sufferers, and as a community we must help make that light shine brighter for those that are poorly.

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