March 6, 2012

We asked three bloggers to tell us about the different attitudes to mental health they've experienced where they live.

Lol – North

'When it comes to mental health I firmly believe cultural influences perpetuate the stigmatising process. I think there is a north/south divide. In my native north east there is a deeply ingrained 'macho' culture surrounding mental health. This I feel is a consequence of the industrial history of the region. This is a region of small coal mining communities and shipbuilding docks, a predominately male domain.
The north east has the second highest suicide rate amongst young men in the country and this is no coincidence. There is a reluctance among young men about going to see their GPs for stress and other mental health related issues because of the stigma they feel. Statistically men experience the same mental health conditions as women but women are twice more likely to visit their GPs for help.
The tragedy of this is that the perceived shame leads to men burying their heads in the sand when they become depressed or have any other mental health condition. Often this results in fatal consequences such as suicide. Stigma plays an insidious role in this ignorance and avoidance of reality. In my work, I speak to men daily about their mental health, I hear their views and opinions and can see how their upbringing has influenced their thinking.'
There is a 'Big boys don't cry' attitude here in the NE which is so damaging. Men see mental illness as a sign of weakness but I really think that this outdated view is slowly changing, thankfully.

Moira - Midlands

Starting University I have recently moved to London from Birmingham and found the transition relatively easy due to the fact they are both cosmopolitan, multicultural cities. 
In Birmingham, my experience with mental health professionals was generally positive.  I saw GP’s in my local practice. It was big enough for me to have seen about three doctors before being referred to a psychiatrist but being a busy surgery it was extremely hard for them to chase up individual cases.  However, reaching an outpatients psychiatric unit, there was a far more time intensive, one-to-one basis for treating patients.  Perhaps this is the same everywhere but the training doctors who talked through and diagnosed my depression brought reassurance and consistency.  
A growing issue in Birmingham is the difficulty with which health professionals can reach out and treat issues in patients from specific backgrounds and districts concentrated with ethnic or religious traditions.  For example, often the stigma and discrimination around mental health issues is at its highest in communities which do not talk about emotional issues and problems and simply aim to cover up problems and continue in their family environment. 

With so many communities of different cultures, religions and ethnicities in cities such as Birmingham and London, you can imagine how hard it is for health services to adapt fast enough to meet the changing demand on them.  However, with so many health services and charities such as Time to change and Rethink concentrated in London, arguably the capital has the greatest resources available to provide support and assistance to the people who need it.
Although better access to health is available in cities, (i.e. through distance, knowledge of health centres etc.)  it is still necessary for mental health awareness to reach into communities everywhere in order for people to access the extensive range of services they offer.  Once this first step is made, it won’t matter where you live; your experience will begin to get better everywhere. 

Laura – South

As a Southern girl who went to university in the North, I have to say I still feel there is a real north/south divide when it comes to facing mental health problems. While at university, even though quite unwell, it just wasn't acceptable among my friends or within the local community to face these problems head on. I felt a deep sense of shame which, since moving back to Essex, has all but disappeared. Working in London, I feel I am within a diverse, progressive city that has slowly but surely begun to face the stigma surrounding mental illness. Of course stigma still exists, but I feel in the South of England the NHS and other statutory or charitable bodies are beginning to speak up. I am yet to hear this from my alumni peers who have remained in the North, and still seem unable to ask for help.

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.


North south devide

I moved from the midlands, where my care was first class both from my GP and the mental health team, to the north where my GP is understanding but access to the mental health services is very poor.

North/South Divide

<p>Oh there is such a difference between North and South for their attitude to and treatment of mental health. &nbsp;I lived and worked in the former coal/steel area of South Yorkshire and, as Lol mentioned, there is a "macho" culture towards the treatment of mental health extending beyond peers and family, through GPs, and even metal health care professionals. My GP simply prescribed me anti-depressants but otherwise ignored me when I felt ill, until I had a major breakdown... &nbsp;When he then referred me to the Mental Health Care services I got a few perfunctory Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Sessions and then was told to "snap out of it" by the staff Psychiatrist. <br>A suicide attempt and a move down to the South to be with family changed my fortunes, as my new GP immediately saw that I had severe depression (which was later diagnosed as a Bipolar Condition) and referred me straight to the local Mental Health Community Team who provided support, education, correct medication to assist my condition, and helped me get back into the community and start to rebuild my shattered self-esteem and confidence.<br>There's no doubt that if I'd have stayed in the North I would now be yet another suicide statistic!&nbsp;</p>

The opposite experience

<p>I have the opposite experience. When living down south (we lived in a rural/suburban area), I tried to get a referral to a psychiatrist through our GP. Nine months later I hadn't heard anything, and when I called to investigate they'd lost my form and wanted me to come in and start the process all over again.&nbsp;<br><br>Then I moved up north (we now lived near a major town), I tried to get a referral again. This time things were very different - my GP stayed in touch (and offered me medication from the start), and within weeks I was in therapy.<br><br>Perhaps it'd be more interesting to compare the city experience to the rural one.&nbsp;</p>

North/South Divide

<p>I don't really know about a North/South divide but there is definatley a East/West divide. We recently moved from the South East to the South West and the difference here is very apparent. Whenever I needed help before in the South East the doctors were always very understanding and helped me to get the treatment I needed whereas down here in the South West it's a different story. I recently went to my new doctor because I have been&nbsp;really struggling and when I asked her if she could find me someone to talk to she looked at me like I had two heads and I left without getting any treatment and feeling a fool.</p><p>They seem to have a very old fashioned attitude down here of 'oh&nbsp;just get on with it there's nothing wrong with you!'</p>

East-West Divide

<p>I have to agree with "Anonymous", above, because I lived in the Brighton area and found an absolutely brilliant, understanding and non-judgemental Dr - who I think, personally, deserves a medal for making me feel able to talk to him openly and honestly about my depression and anxiety. However, I moved to Devon and in my Town it is narrow-minded enough, but I have just left my Dr's Surgery in tears becausethe understanding OS just not there. That said, I think a great deal of difference is shown as to whether you are in a City or Town, anywhere.</p>

I'm from the Midlands and go

<p>I'm from the Midlands and go to university in the South West, to be honest I have experienced a lack of services everywhere. The problem that they have down here is that you have to fit certain guidelines to get access to supportive services, if you don't fit these guidelines at all for any of them you are left high and dry. In Birmingham I was pretty much told to snap out of it. Seven years in and out of GP surgeries and on various medication haven't really helped, I think a stable length of CBT would have helped but unfortunately there just aren't the resources for me.</p>

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