Invisible Illness – 1 in 4

Real talk. Mental Health. Whats the first thing that comes to your mind? Possibly depression, maybe anxiety? What about attention seeking? Making it up? They’ll get over it? It is the stigma attached to the word that is the reason for so many people failing to seek medical or professional help when it is so needed.

Breaking your arm for example. When you break a bone you seek medical help pretty much straight away, you don’t wait for all the rest of your bones in your body to break before seeking help. Yet when we feel a little less like ourselves, when our mind is breaking and our hearts are hurting, most people don’t seek the help they need until it reaches crisis point, if they seek help at all.

After doing a short and quick 10 question survey for Minds Over Matter, it showed that 95.83% believed people were embarrassed to seek support and help for their mental health with the other 4.17% selecting unsure. The main answers for this were due to the stigma, not wanting a label, being classed as attention seeking and not wanting people to think they are week. It really saddened me to read this, especially when the age range of people who took part were from under 18 to over 75. When asked if them or someone they knew was having a difficult time, would they know who to contact – 56.25% answered yes, however 16.67% answered yes but wouldnt know what to say and 12.5% answered no. When asked who they would find it easier initially speaking to about their mental health – 34.04% answered their GP, 27.66% answered a friend, 4.26% for a family member, 27.66% answered a stranger/support group or crisis number and 6.36 % answered no one. These answered are so varied, and show that people find it so difficult to make that initial first GP appointment and would rather speak with a stranger or friend. Again is this due to the lack of professional help or is it the lack of understanding and more routined procedure GP’s have and a lack of lived experience of real feelings, knowing how it hurts, why it is so difficult to function on a daily basis.

Everyone has mental health, but 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health illness or have been affected by mental health in some way. I am 1 in 4. The hardest thing is forcing yourself to try and stay in a positive mindset or try to remove negative thoughts and not be so critical on yourself. It is a constant battle with your own mind that some people just don’t understand. It is not attention seeking. It is not a sign of weakness. It is not something you can just get over or ‘put a smile on’. It is very real. It is very common and more and more people are losing their lives to it every single day due to the lack of support, lack of funding, lack of understanding and copious amounts of stigma, name calling, labelling and dismissal.

The rate of suicides, especially in Ayrshire, over the last year have been overwhelming and the lack of NHS funding and resources means the pressure of waiting times and lists is putting more and more people off getting help and also causing massive issues for those who only seek help when they have reached crisis point and then have the dreaded waiting lists to see counsellors etc.

It really comes back to this ‘invisible illness’ statement, which is so very true and very real. So easy to fake a smile, show up and do what needs done. I know how it feels to be there in body but not in mind, distant from your surroundings, surrounded by people yet so lonely. It is the very worse place a person can be trapped, in their own mind.

It is so important people realise the signs of mental health illnesses, whether that is anything from depression and anxiety to post natal depression or PTSD. Distancing themselves from friends and family, finding regular excuses for not attending events or cancelling plans, not eatting or sleeping like usual, giving things away, or refusing to make plans days/weeks in advance. These are just some of the ways you could notice a deterioration in someones mental health.

Maybe try asking twice. It is so easy to say ‘are you okay’ but everyones likely answer is ‘yeh fine’ or ‘yeah im okay thanks you?’, but maybe saying ‘well are you sure everything is okay’ ‘how has work been’ ‘has anything been bothering you lately?’. Simple questions that could potentially change a persons way of thinking.

Check up on your friends, especially the ‘strong’ ones. Include everyone in plans. Don’t leave anyone to walk behind. If someone is interupted in conversation, acknowledge them, don’t leave them out. Make sure your words are kind, bullying can be one of the main causes of mental health problems.

‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind’

‘Never give up on someone with a mental illness, when ‘i’ is replaced with ‘we, illness becomes wellness’.

Useful contacts: Minds over Matter Ayrshire, Release Ayrshire, The Kris Boyd Charity, WeSpeak, Samaritans (116123), Breathing Space (0800 83 85 87) Crisis text line – text SHOUT to 85258 in the UK and text with a trained crisis volunteer.

Together we can eliminate the stigma and normalise mental health.

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