Mental health isn’t a sexy topic.
Organisations that support people with mental health problems don’t get the same level of exposure as (for eg) cancer, children’s or animal welfare charities. This reflects how mental health is viewed in society. Despite poor mental health affecting nearly everyone at some point in their lives, people with mental health problems are still, too often, portrayed as ‘nutters’ or even ‘dangerous nutters’ in the popular press and TV shows.
It’s ok to fear, laugh at, humiliate or pity the crazy people.
Mental health only becomes ‘sexy’, it would seem, when we get to be voyeurs – fascinated by TV programmes about in-mates of modern asylums, or by the weird lives of the hoarders, or compulsive cleaners. Such programmes go some way towards raising the profile of mental health, and some are much more positive than others (see for example the uplifting documentary where James Rhodes takes his classical piano into a hospital) but, for the most part, mental health problems as entertainment isn’t helpful in combating stigma.
The stigma doesn’t only affect those with more significant difficulties. People with lower level mental health problems – such as (extremely common) depression and anxiety – are expected to pull themselves together, get over it, or, my personal favourite: happiness is a choice. Just choose to be happy!
Why would these sad souls need support from a charity? Why fund help for people that won’t help themselves?
The standard narrative remains so stigmatising that people still report reluctance to see their GP. This shouldn’t be. Seeing someone about mind-related worries should be as normal as booking a dentist appointment for toothache. And such is the lack of knowledge about how to effectively support people with mental health needs that there’s great disparity in the therapies and treatments people are offered when they do go to their GP. (For the record, my local practice: very good.)
I’ve had support from Southend Mind. I know the difference they can make to people’s ability to engage with the world and live a happy life. People have been saying kind things recently about the community work I do. That would never be happening had I not had help. The support not only helped me to cope with difficulties at the time, but helped me to become much more aware of my low moods and anxieties, and how to manage them. When things start to get bad now, I know what to do. (Running, and having a wonderful mood-boosting dog, helps.) One is rarely cured of a mental health problem, but the majority of people learn how to manage.
All of this is why I chose to run for Mind in Sunday’s Brighton Marathon.
I’m no endurance runner. The extensive training has made this abundantly clear. Marathon training is hard. I’m slow. I lag behind everyone else. I suffer. Man, do I suffer. The longer runs that I’ve managed have thrown up symptoms that are, frankly, terrifying. It seems likely these are linked to my brain injury – which is something of an unknown quantity when I’m putting my body under so much stress.
However, I am still going to have a go anyway.
Maybe I’ll make it, maybe I won’t, but we never really know what we’re capable of until we try.
My fundraising total is currently relatively low – under the required £500 minimum. (Although I have some funds to add in from last week’s fabulous meal at The Railway). National Mind have said that if I manage to acquire more than £500, they should be able to give some of the total to Southend Mind – directly supporting local people.
If you can bung a few quid my way, I would be extremely grateful. And if you remember, spare a thought for me on Sunday.
To quote Dr Frasier Crane, I wish you all good mental health.