MENTAL AND PROUD OF IT
I’m mental, and I’m proud of it.
We all know that words have power and I’m keen to claim ‘mental’ as a title – a badge of courage and distinction.
In the past it has been a term that has been used in an insulting and highly offensive way to describe someone with a mental illness. But I now use the term boldly, and as a way of beginning a conversation about mental illness and to help drag the discussion out of the shadows and into the harsh sunlight.
It’s World Mental Health Week and despite the leaps that have been made with treatment and understanding, boy we still have a long way to go in removing the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
I get it. I felt incredible shame when I realised I had post natal depression. The irony, for me, was gobsmacking. For many years before I had worked with peak mental health organizations spreading the message that we need to talk about depression.
Having grown up with a mum with bipolar disorder I thought I was armed and educated about mental health. Wrong. Now it was me feeling out of control and ‘mad’. What did I have to be depressed about? I had a glorious husband, my much longed for baby girl, the family I had always dreamt about. I was a failure. I was feeling everything that I used to preach that people with a mental illness should not feel.
If someone we know is going through a tough time because of physical illness, it’s easier for people to ‘rally’ around, make appropriate clucking sounds of sympathy and think about practical ways they can help, like dropping meals around and offering to mind the kids.
In contrast, some people find it too confronting to know what to do if a friend or loved one has depression.
It doesn’t help that sometimes people suffering with a mental illness aren’t very nice to be around when they’re unwell. They can appear rude, agitated, irritable, irrational and downright ungrateful. I know. I’ve been there – with my mum and also having had my own experiences of PND.
However, do you know what we need when we are “mental?”
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