Why is Mental Health so taboo?

🙂 I live in a world where we are fantastic at helping and supporting one another in a crisis.

The recent floods across the north of UK saw hordes of people donate their time and energies helping those affected. And remember Alan Barnes? A disabled man who was cruelly mugged outside his home received £150,000 from the general public in donations. We are brilliant at raising money for Comic Relief and Pudsey.

Why are we so charitable? 

Maybe it’s because we are so grateful (to whoever or whatever……….) that this hasn’t happened to us. So we give time, energies and money in gratitude and maybe a sense of relief.

But what about those suffering from mental health problems?  Those willing to help and get involved are not as forthcoming when someone, even someone close to us, is having a breakdown.

Why is mental health taboo?

Mental health seems to scare the living daylights out of us. It is mis-understood and we are ill advised about what to do.

We don’t talk about it. So hopefully it’ll right itself and go away. Would we say that about diabetes, asthma or cancer? Definitely not. But we don’t want to discuss a work colleague whose behaviour is so erratic that it is changing their personality. Or a family member who is so obsessive that it is seriously affecting their daily life.

Sometimes all people need is to be heard and listened to and for their problems to be taken seriously.

Which is why Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is so vital. Set up within the NHS, they offer assessment and treatment when children and young people have emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.

Sounds just what we need. The only problem is that they are vastly under-resourced and over-stretched.

Taking action

The wonderful, amazing Sam Lethbridge set up a Facebook group It’s Not Just You  and a Twitter page as she realised there were many parents battling with the system and needed peer support. There are over 900 people in the group.

Last week she wrote an open letter to David Cameron which received a huge amount of media attention. This brave woman spoke quite candidly of the struggle her family are facing with the deteriorating mental health of her 10 year old daughter.

I am writing this letter out of sheer desperation. Our family is being destroyed by mental health issues and there is absolutely no support from Camhs. The specialist service supposed to be helping us.

Our daughter is unwell. Yet no-one from our local authority has helped. The NHS CAMHS system is broken and needs fixing now!

The support from CAMHS is woeful. Time and time again the same story is told. Support from CAMHS is just inadequate. Across boroughs the situation seems to be the same. My own experience was similar. Long waiting times and ineffectual advice.

David Cameron has promised an extra £1.2 billion. Yet, Young Minds, the children and young people’s mental health charity, showed that CAMHS budgets suffered a £35m cut in 2014/15 and that over one in five local authorities have either frozen or cut their CAMHS budgets every year since 2010.

If you have had similar experiences with CAMHS, please take time to complete this short survey.

So is it about funding or just incompetence?

My gorgeous, courageous 18 year old niece Amy @amyselmy reached a very low point in her life where she too had to reach out for help. But again the mental health services were not there in her hour of need. This week she appeared on Victoria Derbyshire to bravely talk about her experience. And how eloquently and succinctly she put her point across. I love her ridiculous amounts ❤

So where does that leave us?

Thanks to brave and courageous woman, such as Sam and Amy, the media is now taking notice of the importance of mental health and funding.

But our attitude also needs to change. If someone at work or one of our friends is struggling then there are certain things we should do and then things we shouldn’t do.

(Courtesy of Mind Health Connect)

We should….

  • Ask how they are.
  • Be available to listen.
  • Acknowledge how they are feeling.
  • Ask what you can do to help.
  • Choose a good time and place to talk, when you are both relaxed.
  • Be sensitive, positive and encouraging.
  • Keep the conversation relaxed and open.
  • Talk about other topics too. Don’t let a mental health issue become the centre of your relationship.
  • Start slowly: try small actions first such as going for a walk or visiting a friend.
  • Encourage them to get enough sleep, eat healthy food and exercise.
  • Invite them out, and encourage other people in your lives to do so too.
  • Offer practical support, such as doing their shopping or cooking meals.
  • Offer to make an appointment with GP or mental health professional on their behalf, and offer to take them.

We shouldn’t…..

  • Make unhelpful or dismissive comments like ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’, ‘forget about it’, ‘pull yourself together’, or ‘I’m sure it will pass’. These comments can make a person feel worse
  • Say you know how they feel if you don’t, as it invalidates their experience.
  • Point out that others are worse off, this is dismissive.
  • Blame your friend or loved one for changes in their behaviour, even if you feel tired and frustrated.
  • Avoid the person.
  • Pressure them if they don’t want to go out, or discuss their issues with you.
  • Think of mental illness as a personal weakness or failing.
  • Get frustrated or angry.

So in conclusion

Love each other ❤

Help each other.

In good times and bad.

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