Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mental Health: "Often the stigma is worse than the symptoms"

Following on from yesterdays piece, good to see Alastair Campbell supporting the Time to Change initiative that got £20m of government funding yesterday. Time for Change aims to reduce stigma and bullying around mental health issues. Campbell blogs "for many, this was an area where the stigma and discrimination were often worse than the symptoms, and that the campaign was focused on one of the hardest things of all – changing attitudes. Mental illness is perhaps the last great taboo, and we need to break it down."

The Independent on Sunday reported a survey of mental health sufferers, where 2/3 of sufferers said they found it harder to cope with other people's attitudes to their illness than they did the illness itself. One in 4 of us get hit by mental illness at some stage, but fear of what other people will say or think means that many suffer in silence. Occasionally someone will break the silence, but that still takes quite a lot of guts. Saying you get depression, OCD, panic attacks etc. should be as normal as telling people you've got the flu' or a broken leg.

Back in February Nick Clegg announced £400m of government money would go towards mental health, so I look forward to seeing where the other £380m is going to go. At the moment, this is pushing water uphill - the stress of redundancy, debt and economic uncertainty is massive, whilst those in work are putting in longer hours and wondering when their time will come.

But targeting the stigma of mental health looks like a good move. Normalising mental illness, putting it in the same social bracket as physical illness, can ease the distress of those who suffer. And with very few exceptions, my experience is that if you tell people what's really going on in your head, they may not completely understand it, but they do accept it.

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