I’m betting this is probably the 20th or 30th post you’ve seen today with this title. I’m not usually one to follow the crowd, but if there was a day and a subject I would encourage massive amounts of people to write/talk/dance about, it would be this.
Mental health in an unequal world…
This is the theme of this years mental health day. Lots of people have written about lots of different things related to this, such as mental health services in other countries, how accessible mental health services are for different types of, usually marginalised, people, and the affect the pandemic has had on the world. I, as always, am going to share what this means to me.
You’re not ill enough…
I think that mental health diagnosis and help is very hard to get, if you appear to be too high functioning (story of my life). Doctors/psychologists/the general public don’t tend to take you seriously unless you are presenting in a state of crisis.
Now the general public can be forgiven for this. Unless they have a relative or friend who has a mental health condition, it can be hard to pick up on subtle signs. However, I have twice spoken to a Psychologist who has spoken to me like I am wasting their time.
A lady I spoke to in my capacity as a Mental Health First Aider was telling me about her experience of being assessed by a psychologist. She told me about how they had commented on her ability to maintain eye contact, and how this meant she was not anxious. What she said really resonated with me. “I have trained myself to maintain eye contact to appear normal”. Something I would’ve thought would’ve been obvious to a Psychologist?
Wanna know what a Psychologist said to me? “I don’t think you need to be here, do you?” And you know what, I felt that guilty, that I didn’t approach a medical professional for help again for another 7 years, which was after a psychotic episode.
My point is, I think there is discrimination towards people who are high functioning. We often do not get the help we need because a MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL to a certain extent, doesn’t believe us.
Now, I know I can’t expect them to read minds, they’re only human. But education and experience should at least allow them to pick up on the little things?
I’ll tell you a story…
I was once helping to facilitate a mental health peer support group, for people with Anxiety and Depression. One participant came in late, was very loud, and kept interrupting others while they were talking. Now I’m not a psychologist, I wasn’t even studying psychology then, but I knew that they were suffering massively with low self esteem and insecurity. My colleague agreed. We continued to help the person and they became involved in the sessions in a less erratic way. We could’ve judged this person as confident, maybe a little arrogant and self centred and sent them on their way, but because we were good at what we did, we spotted that help was needed and didn’t judge straight away. That was equality, we treated that person in the same way as someone presenting as shy, quiet and introverted.
Check on your funny friends…
You never know what is ‘really’ going on in someone’s life, you only know what they choose to show you. I’m not saying you should go round accusing all of your outgoing, extroverted, confident friends of being secretly anxious or depressed but just keep in mind that they too need checking on. You don’t know until you ask ‘Are you ok?’. Don’t assume someone is okay, because they seem like they’re doing okay. You’ll only regret it if you didn’t ask.
Thanks for reading xxx