I remember at primary school this scary story that was going around the school. We all became obsessed with it, acting it out and laying wide awake in bed full of fear. The story was about a ‘mental patient’ who had escaped from a ‘mental hospital’ and was hiding in someone’s house licking their hand whilst their dog hung from the ceiling dead and dripping with blood. Busting these ridiculous myths and stereotypes seems very fitting with Halloween, this year has been another year with stores selling ‘psych ward patient’ costumes. Sometimes I forget that these stereotypes are still around, having spent time in a number of psychiatric hospitals I feel that I know the true picture of mental illness and patients. If you walked passed me on the street you would not know that I suffer from mental illness. I look like a normal, average person and wear clothes from the high street shops that most women in their early twenties wear.
Mental health teams prefer to treat patients in the community these days because hospital isn’t a real environment, it’s like being in a little bubble for weeks or months and then you have to battle to get used to the world again. A hospital admission is often the last resort or due to a mental health crisis. The patients on these psychiatric wards are very poorly but they really aren’t that different. If you settled down to watch this year’s series of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ then you were not alone, so did I along with the other patients on the psychiatric ward. Those pajamas you got in John Lewis, I wore them during my stay in the psychiatric ward. Do you like painting your nails with a music channel on in the background? Again that’s what we did in the psychiatric ward.
Are you scared of mental health? Well don’t be because you have it! You might be fortunate enough to have good mental health, but each and every one of us has mental health and remember the statistics point out that 1 in 4 of us Brits will suffer from a mental health problem, they aren’t rare.
A very common and important myth is that a sufferer of mental illness is likely to be unpredictable and violent but the truth of the matter is that sufferers are actually more likely to be a victim of violence. In fact, the majority of homicides and violent crimes are committed by individuals who are not suffering from a mental illness. The person most at risk is often the individual themselves, with ninety percent of people who die from suicide suffering from a mental illness.
So this Halloween please remember that ‘window lickers’ are as real as vampires. Vampires, ghosts and people jumping out at you might be scary but somebody suffering from a mental illness is not.
Time to Change have a lot on facts, statistics and myths which can be read here:
If you are suffering from a mental health condition and are in need of support: