The Annual Disability lecture - Cambridge University, 2014
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Rebecca Sherwood
5th June, 2014
I attended the lecture on disability, slightly apprehensive of the way in which the lecture was going to be delivered, given that the topic of disability is such a sensitive issue. Generally disabilities and mental health are a conversational taboo because people neither understand them properly, nor want to talk about them. I was pleasantly surprised how the speaker, Dr Rachel Perkins, managed to address mental illness in a relaxed and respectful way. What I drew from the lecture is that there seems to be three main reasons why people might chose not to accept help with a mental illness:
(i) They are scared of the stigma surrounding it. Unfortunately it still remains an embarrassing prospect for many people to face up to the label. I am to evaporate the preconceptions.
(ii) Fear of the unknown, and fear of bothering someone, feeling unworthy of others spending time with them. Ultimately hoping it will all disappear.
(iii) They are in denial and have failed to recognise that they are, in fact, ill.
These three reasons might be justified in the case of a patient visiting a doctor for advice, because they might be clinical in labeling a patient and prescribing certain drugs. However in a counseling scenario, there would be no form of judgment; each case would be evaluated individually. The main difference is that a counselor has time and interest, which a typical GP might lack. Counseling is about normalising the illness, making the patient recognise that they are not the only one going through this and that others have also overcome this. It offers a safe, non-judgmental, confidential setting. It is an alternative to taking medication, because talking helps discover new ways of finding purpose in life.
Many different things can trigger off negative thoughts and mental instability. We can’t assume that we are exempt from an illness of this kind. For example, eating disorders can develop from various life experiences, such as over-exposure to media expectations, stress, and warped body image. Society today places an emphasis on how a ‘normal’ person should be, rather than how we want to be. But if we harbor self-defeating thoughts then we will never develop our full potential, and will always be held back. Sometimes we need to seek the help of a counselor who is impartial and willing to listen.
The concept of seeking a counselor is becoming more accepted due to the fact that in modern day society, we are faced with more issues than ever that we have to adapt to. We all need help at some stage in our lives, so instead of blaming ourselves or taking it out on other people, counseling acts as a coping mechanism. You will be taken seriously, no matter what size of the problem you bring to counseling sessions, because you are unique and everything affects us all in different ways.
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