Issues in Life - The Stigma of Mental Illness

It never fails to amaze me how those seeking my help, often seem embarrassed and wary of admitting that they think there is something wrong with them. It’s almost as if to admit to a psychological problem is in some way an admission of either failure or weakness.

And yet is it really so different from having a busted arm or one of the many illnesses which we all have to suffer? With something like this we think nothing of seeking help, broadcasting it to anyone who’ll listen and as often as not letting our employer know why we’ll not be in for a while. It’s accepted that things like that happen to us, that they are part of life and they are nothing to be ashamed of. After all, it’s not our fault that we’ve contracted some strange malady.

And yet for a large part of society it seems that mental illness is in some way our fault - something not to be spoken of. But isn’t it largely as a result of the society we live in that so many are troubled and fragile. The pressures of living in today’s world with its array of demands and promises, its highs and lows and its unpredictability only serve to confuse and disturb our desire to control our own lives. And then there is the issue of the workplace and the attitude of many – bosses and colleagues alike – to the idea that just because someone is troubled that they are in some way suddenly unfit. And so, to avoid being labelled, to avoid being shut out and to escape the potential ridicule, many keep their mental illness to themselves. They think that by ignoring the causes their illness will miraculously go away. But if that busted arm isn’t treated the chances are its only going to get worse.

So why should it be any different with your mental health?

What is particularly disturbing is the apparent lack of attention given to this issue by succeeding Governments. One of the party leaders was recently heard to say that more money needs to be made available to the NHS for the training of Cognitive Behavioural Therapists. This has been on their respective agendas for years and yet people still wait many months before any meaningful treatment begins. Let’s hope that this this time around, they work to remove the stigma around mental illness and provide the resources to treat a growing problem.

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