November 22, 2013

MaggieI am the 1 in 4. I am one of the 25% of people who suffer from a mental health problem in any given year. It seems like a shockingly high number doesn’t it?

When statistics come out for other illnesses, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, no-one bats an eyelid, because we all know someone who has been affected by these; often someone that we number among our nearest and dearest.

But mental health problems? For many, they are things that happen to other people. There is still such a stigma in our society that people don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health.

Look around at your friends, family, neighbours, colleagues. On average, 1 in 4 will have or have had some issue with their mental health, but we never hear about most of them because people are too ashamed or embarrassed to “come out” as mentally ill.

I have struggled with severe depression... I am also diabetic

I have struggled with severe depression on and off for over four years. Within that period there have been good times and there have been bad times. I honestly don’t think I would still be here today without the support of the people around me. And yet, most people I know have no idea I am depressed and I wouldn’t dream of talking to them about it.

For the sake of contrast, I am also a type 1 diabetic. My family all know this, my friends all know this, and many colleagues and acquaintances do too. I am very open with my diabetes and happy to talk about it.

I don't fear judgement for my diabetes

So, why the difference? These are both long term, chronic conditions that affect my everyday life. The fact is that I don't fear judgement for my diabetes. When I tell people I am depressed, I worry that they are thinking I am weak or pathetic. That I am using it as an excuse. Even that I am a danger to myself.

I worry that people will look at me and treat me differently. That blossoming friendships or relationships may flounder because I have too much emotional baggage. And the saddest part is that these are not just paranoid concerns. These are real reactions that I have had from real people.

So why I am I putting this out there for the whole internet to read if I am so scared of how people will react? Because this is not how it should be.

I don’t believe that people that react this way are bad people, or are trying to hurt me. A lot of people simply don’t how to respond because it’s a new experience for them. They are wary, thanks to media portrayals of those with a mental illness as either dangerous, pathetic, or trying to beat the system. They are scared of the unknown. It doesn't have to be this way. People need to know about mental illness, how to talk about it, and how to support those affected. We can change and save lives. It’s Time to Talk.

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I too suffer severe depression and four weeks ago for the first time I tried to take my own life, although I was crying out inside for help I was unable to voice it, I felt that people would think I was weak , I spent several days in hospital, since then I have often thought about it and what I did, at the time it seemed like the only way out but afterwards realised it wasn't the answer, a lot of people say its a cowards way out, believe me it is one of the hardest things to do, I did not give any warning nor did I leave any letters of any kind, I now receive medication and although it does seem to help I still think bad and sad thoughts several times a day and only by saying to myself that im better than that do I get through it, I don't really know why I commented on this blog I suppose its because I can relate to the day to day obsticles and I understand the blog probably better than most, thank you for taking the time to read my comments, ian wooldridge

Hi Ian, thanks for commenting

Hi Ian, thanks for commenting. The Samaritans are always available if you ever need to talk to somebody. You can call them on 08457 90 90 90 or email or visit your local branch if you'd like to talk to somebody face to face:

My son who is 21 also as Type

My son who is 21 also as Type 1 Diabetes and suffers with Depression and A.D.H.D. He has poor control because of these factors but he is expected just to get on with it by so called professionals . A disability adviser at the Job Center basically said he was only there for the moment and he needs to pull his socks up and often threaten to stop his money. This added to his stress levels and he got to the point that he would get in a state before going and even said "They can keep their money as I would rather stave then go there". The hard part is getting people to understand he is not doing it because he is being lazy . The comments that make me mad are that "He needs to do it himself". I was wondering if you could tell me how it effected your diabetes and how helpful professionals were.

Feeling judged 'weak' at work

I have recently returned to work after two months off with an episode of severe depression. Sadly Maggie it is not paranoia that we are treated differently having a mental health illness, treated as 'weak'! I work as a social worker and I am currently feeling so undervalued - the work I am doing and the caseload I have since my return goes way beyond 'reasonable adjustments' - it is treating me like someone incapable of doing the job. The questions from my manager constantly focus on whether I am able to do the job, the stresses of the job (which I know about having been qualified for 10 years, and whether I would like to work in another team)! It borders on discrimination! Cases I have worked on for several years were reallocated literally the day before my return without being discussed with me - indeed there was not a discussion at my 'return to work' meeting about what I felt I could manage; it was already decided following Occupational Health advice. After all THEY are the experts an MY mental health not ME!! The advice from OH did not even suggest these cases should be so reduced just advised I should have a phased return and time to catch up on reports. I feel extremely stigmatised and a 'lesser' being as a result and you are right - this is not how it should be! We have to fight these attitudes. Colleagues were not told why I was off, my manager did not contact me during my sickness period despite policy being that it is 'essential' during long term sickness that they do so - fear of dealing with mental health problems? Attitudes need to change. It is time to change! Thank you for speaking out. All the best Jane

I can identify with this

I too worry about being seen to be weak. I think that suffering from depression leaves me vulnerable.

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