Stop With The Stigmatising Headlines

When something goes wrong in society and a horrible tragedy happens like a brutal murder or someone on the loose with a gun the media often instantly blame mental illness for the tragedy. This week an incredibly upsetting and heartbreaking incident occurred when a Germanwings plane crashed in The French Alps on Tuesday killing all of the 150 people on board the flight. It is such a sad and tragic occurrence and I cannot imagine what the families of those people are going through right now.

The media, however, have not dealt with this situation in the right way. As a society we tend to blame groups of people, for example when a terrorist attack happens we blame an entire religion. When the news emerged that the co-pilot appeared to crash the plane on purpose and he had depression, the media gripped onto the fact that he had a mental illness and immediately put the blame on that releasing stigmatising headlines. The Daily Mail printed on their front page, “Suicide pilot had a long history of depression. Why on earth was he allowed to fly” This headline is unacceptable. The majority of people with depression are not dangerous nor are they bad people. I have depression and I would never dream of killing one person, let alone 150 people. I have never hurt another person physically and I highly doubt I ever will. I know many people with depression some of which are charity workers, scientists, nurses. Why should a mental illness mean that someone shouldn’t be allowed to do their job? 1 in 4 of us suffer from mental health problems and I’m sure there are many people working in ‘trusted’ positions that have mental health problems whether they are diagnosed or not. Anyone whether unwell or not can be impulsive. We all have a heart that could stop beating at any time, are we saying that anyone with a heart shouldn’t be a pilot or a surgeon?

The Daily Mirror’s front page involved a huge font with the words, “Killer Pilot Suffered From Depression” So? The pilot may have had depression but correlation does not imply causation. We don’t know that it was his depression that made him crash the plane and we may never know but it is wrong to speculate and turn to blame a vulnerable group of people. The pilot had his own thoughts and choices, individuals are responsible for their own actions. This tragedy is not an opportunity to stigmatise those with mental illness. People with mental illness are still people, people who are capable of achieving great things. Let’s not blame mental illness every time something goes wrong.

If you stigmatise and shut out certain groups in society then society loses out. People have much to offer the world regardless of age, race, religion and disability. Let’s focus on people’s gifts and talents and see them as individuals rather than grouping people and tarring them with the same brush in order to cope with the horrors that happen in our world. You cannot group people together, mental illness is a huge umbrella and no two people are the same. One pilot with mental illness may be overly cautious. Another pilot with mental illness may be impulsive. People are people, each individual unique in how they respond to the world around them.

Bad things happen in this world and maybe people blame things like religion or mental illness because it makes it feel easier to them or helps them to make sense of things but we need to accept that bad things happen and individuals alone can cause trauma and nightmares. Blaming innocent groups leaves people outcasted, alone and puts unnecessary fear into society.

We must remember that we all have mental health, we are all on the scale somewhere. People with mental illness are not scary or dangerous. They are not ‘crazy’ or ‘lunatics’ they are simply people like you and I and there’s a high likelihood that at some point in your life you will struggle with mental health problems.

I am not standing up for the pilot, not at all. If he did crash that plane on purpose then it is beyond wrong, heartbreaking, horrific but I do think that if the pilot’s depression did contribute to the crash and he had a long history of the illness like the media suggest then questions need to be asked about why he didn’t have the right help. I do not know the situation here but I know that I have cried out for help in the past and been ignored by services and ended up making serious attempts on my life. It needs investigating, did services let him down? Should they have stepped in? Had he made hints or comments and if so why weren’t they taken seriously? I am not saying that it was his illness, we do not know that and it is wrong to speculate but I am saying that this is why it is so important that help is there and accessible for those battling mental illness.

People are mainly good, there are a small minority of people in society who are dangerous and it is wrong to think that the whole of that minority have mental health problems. There are many good people with mental illness and I have been so lucky to meet some of those amazing and inspirational people. In some ways my mental illness has actually helped me to become a better person. I am able to understand what it is like to struggle and I use my negative experiences in a way that turns them into positives whether this be through my blog or speaking out in the media. The night spent in the cell due to lack of hospital beds was one of my worst but I have used it to speak out, raise awareness and to help make change happen. I have a mental illness but I have never attacked anyone or killed anyone. People with mental illness are more likely to be the victim of crime than the criminal. I used to struggle to leave the house but I began baking cakes for homeless young people and it helped me to get out the door and they got some yummy food in their stomach. I honestly believe from the bottom of my heart that my mental illness has helped me to learn and grow into a fairly good person.

It Should Be Compulsory For Wards To Have An Occupational Therapist

You are sectioned under the mental health act and forced to spend weeks or even months in the same mental health ward. Is medication and a bed really all you need? No, it isn’t.

I have been on a few different wards, on the wards with an occupational therapist (OT) the hospital admission was much easier because there were distractions and positive moments, things to break up incredibly boring days but also skills that I could take home with me. I learnt that yoga and breathing exercises could help me relax, that art and creativity could take my mind off of things for a while and that a walk in the fresh air can help to de-stress. I found my two month stay in hospital a very long time and even with an OT there wasn’t enough activities going on but the patient meetings and art groups and word games broke up a lot of very long days and made it easier to get through.

On one ward there was not an OT, there had been an OT on my first admission but she left and wasn’t replaced, there may be a replacement now but I know that for 18 months there was not a replacement. This is not acceptable. There were no activites, no distractions, no skills being taught. I simply laid in my bed and took medication and that alone is not another to get someone well enough to go home or to prevent them from becoming a ‘revolving door patient’.

It’s not only the boredom busters that make OTs important, after a long time spent struggling with mental illness and several weeks or months stuck in hospital, day-to-day living skills can be lacking. OTs can help people get out of the ward and begin to do everyday tasks such as going to the supermarket in preparation for their discharge. OTs can help people learn to wash and dry their clothes or learn to cook themselves food, budgeting. The list goes on, OTs are so important when it comes to recovering from a mental health problem.

You couldn’t run a ward without nurses and doctors, OTs should be a compulsory part of the staffing. 18 months will have seen many people slip through the net on that ward. It shouldn’t have happened and I do not believe it took 18 months to find a suitable candidate into today’s employment environment. You cannot provide a patient with a good quality care plan if you do not have an OT working on the ward.

“It’s All In Your Head”

I am certain that I am not alone in suffering from mental illness and dealing with comments from others such as, “It’s all in your head” and “Just get a grip” and so on. To a certain extent it is ‘all in my head’ but that doesn’t make it any less real and most importantly it is an illness that I can’t help and did not choose to come into my life.

So what is ‘all in my head’? Chemical imbalances, physiological and scientific medical conditions that manifest themselves into psychiatric diagnoses. These illnesses are with me constantly, I can change my thinking, think positively and that will give me hope but it will not dissolve my illnesses and leave me a free man (or woman). Telling me that it is all in my head is no more helpful than telling someone with pneumonia that it is all in their chest. I am aware that I have mental health problems, that my brain is poorly and that my brain is located in my head, I don’t need it pointing out.

Unfortunately I still come across many people who see mental illness as a choice, as weakness or even laziness. I still converse with people who think that depression is just feeling a bit sad and wallowing in it. It isn’t like that at all. It isn’t just the occasional negative thought or scary thought. Mental illness is with me constantly, I might be fighting it and appearing bright and doing well but the thoughts are still there, the illness is still there. A good day doesn’t mean an illness free day, it means a day where I am able to feel a positive emotion or do something good. Yesterday was a good day, I still weighed myself, I still engaged in anorexia behaviours, I still battled depression and tried to push off bad thoughts, I still had to line things up and check them but I felt love in my heart for my family and I smiled and laughed.

A lot of the people who will say things like, “it’s all in your head” will often be against medication for psychiatric conditions. Frowning upon anti depressants and installing the fear into people that they will get ‘hooked’ and be on them for life. Would you be against me taking salbutamol for my asthma? Or my Grandfather taking insulin for his diabetes? Would you be against someone having chemotherapy for cancer? Psychiatric illnesses are serious, they have the potential to be fatal. Why would you discourage someone to take life threatening medication? I know that some people get well with talking therapy alone but I know that without my medication I would still be in hospital. I am not ashamed to say that I take antidepressants, antipsychotics and sleeping tablets because right now I can function at a basic level. Without them I was detained under the Mental Health Act, unaware of what was going on around me, I was seeing things, hearing things. I was hurting myself constantly because I couldn’t bear to be alive. I rarely got out of bed and was watched 24/7 and pinned down and injected if need be.

My medication helps because I suffer from an illness, not bad choices like many assume. My severe and enduring psychiatric conditions become more manageable when I have these life saving tablets and who knows, maybe I will be on them for the rest of my life but at least I will be alive and not detained under the Mental Health Act.

So yes, to a certain extent it is all in my head but someone saying that isn’t going to make me go “Oh yeah so it is, no worries I’m better now” it’s just going to make me feel guilty and shameful. But it’s important to know what’s in my head is a chemical imbalance, a medical condition that medication can help correct.