On this World Mental Health Day 2018, we're hearing from our Young Champions who are sharing their stories to challenge stigma and discrimination around mental health.
I first chose to campaign to change people’s attitude towards mental health as I had a very stigmatising diagnosis: borderline personality disorder (BPD), often now referred to as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). Too often former friends, family members and professionals brushed off my frequent suicide attempts as being “manipulative” and “attention-seeking”. The validation, that I was in emotional turmoil and deeply hurting that resulted in trying to take my own life so many times, was sadly missing.
Talking about it with Time to Change Wales has helped. I remember one GP listening at a Public Health Wales anti-stigma talk saying it had opened his eyes to the range of symptoms someone with BPD could have.
As time has passed, and my diagnosis has changed to bipolar disorder with psychotic features (I'm being reassessed in the community to confirm that diagnosis or have it updated to schizoaffective disorder - bipolar type) I have had to face other stigmatising attitudes. Hallucinations are a pretty taboo subject, mainly because of the number of times people with psychosis are shown as murderers in the media. Suddenly, if you hear voices, you are dangerous and need locking up. In fact, those of us with psychosis are far more likely to be victims of crime.
What motivates me to continue to campaign with Time to Change Wales is to end the stigma surrounding mental illness once and for all. It truly is the last taboo. It shouldn’t be. After all, the brain is just another organ that can go wrong. I want to see mental and physical health on equal footing, and the funding that goes into researching and treating both to reflect that parity.
If I was to give tips to someone else who was considering speaking up as a TtCW Champion, or just in everyday life, my number one tip is be honest. Don’t be afraid and hide what has happened to you. We can’t challenge stigma if we can’t show the true picture of mental illness and how stigma and discrimination have affected us. Your story of surviving (and thriving with) mental illness will give hope to others.
Secondly, challenge stigma wherever you may face it. Not in an aggressive way, but calmly and assertively. Let people know it’s wrong and insulting to discriminate on the grounds of mental illness.
Lastly, I would say make sure you have a strong support network in place. Talking about your own struggles can be cathartic, but in doing so the pain of the past and/or present can become overwhelming. Make sure you have a friend, family member, trusted other or pet to confide in and get support from.
On this World Mental Health Day, remember you are not alone. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, and that’s just the number of people who come forward. Speak out to challenge stigma and speak up for help if you need it. This world needs you and your unique story. It will help others.
If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email email@example.com