Why don’t we talk about mental health?
This week’s Surgery is all about your mind and you. Olly Alexander from Years & Years joins Gemma and Dr Radha to help break the silence around mental health issues, from anxiety to bipolar and everything in between.
Are you struggling with your mental health? How do you know if you’re depressed or just sad? Do you find it hard to open up?
Share your experience of mental health issues and tune in on Wednesday 11th January at 9pm on BBC Radio 1 for advice and support.
Please note: You can post on this forum anonymously.
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Jan 11th: Why don’t we talk about mental health? watch
BBC Radio 1
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- 06-01-2017 10:07
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- 06-01-2017 10:24
Let's. The taboo and stigma from it has got to stop and we must start realising how important that it is that good care/help is there for people's mental health.
I was struggling with my mental health. Things started to crumble at the start of A2. It worsened as family issues arose and my grades plummeted. Xmas was a great break, a cleansing if you like, now I feel much better and am much more motivated and hope that others are too
Great question. Personally, I do not know. This is because I have not been diagnosed with anything and have no real idea of how you tell without it. Sometimes due to a family history of MH issues, I wonder if I have something like this. Other times I brush it off, oh its just stress and sad stuff and sad stuff stress or that ruddy time of the month etc. Etc.
Nope, a lesson of psychology really opened me up go the fact that hormonally, women are actually more likely to feel better about their issues after having a natter about then to another. Some hormone or something, I apologise for the lack of memory I have. This and the fact that in general idc too much means that if someone is willing to listen and I trust them, I will talk to them and nearly always they make me feel just that bit better which means I can do my hw without crying etc. Many of these people are on here and I am extremely grateful to them.
I like to reciprocate these trust/listening things also because I have similar experiences and believe that I can at least give someone a laugh in the hopes to cheer them up/motivate them and maybe even make them smile .
Definitely tuning in
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- 06-01-2017 10:36
I think people are scared. It's not even so much about lack of education anymore, although we do need a lot more education about it, it's about lack of knowledge about how to help and support people. People end up feeling awkward and don't know what to say, maybe we need more education in schools about it being okay not to know what to say or not having a 'fix' for something, but you can be there for someone without this - often just asking how someone feels, even if you don't have anything to say back but just give them a hug or make them a cup of tea, can make all the difference to how supported someone feels.
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- 06-01-2017 10:42
I find that with the stigma attached to it, people are too afraid to open up and say what they are really feeling and often people around them do not know how to support them. I won't lie, supporting someone with MH isn't easy at all, you need to be dedicated and realise that certain things you say may not be appropriate. Like several posters have alluded, teaching children from a young age about MH is crucial as you never know when it will hit you. Like take from example my real life friends, everything about me seems fine but to people on TSR, they know about my MH and I think it's because you have people on here who understand and have gone through similar experiences. I struggle with opening up as I find I feel like a bother to people and I can't express myself so it leads to ranting but I find helping others helps me in a way. What helps me is my music, and creativity. I like to escape for a while and come back refreshed.
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- 06-01-2017 10:46
Sure, we should. I guess it's because of the whole stigma, like "if you have some mental health problems you're a psycho/outcast" sort of assumption. That's just how some people in society look at it I'm afraid. It is sad because some people do want to tell others and bottling it up doesn't help a thing but they're afraid of what people would think of them.
From my perspective, I'd only really feel comfortable discussing it with my closest friends. I just don't want other people to know about my problems, I'm a very closed person in that respect. I sometimes think "would people see me differently?" if I were to share my problems to other people. I think that's the case for a lot of people who don't like to discuss it or who don't want to be associated with some sort of mental health issues.
But MH is such a sensitive topic, as BurstingBubbles said, it's also because people don't know how to support others. You can't just tell someone that "everything is going to be okay" and expect things to be fine. It's that lack of understanding that just prevents people from supporting I feel.Last edited by UWS; 06-01-2017 at 10:48.
- 06-01-2017 10:59
I've been in and out of MH treatment since I was a child and I come from a family with numerous MH conditions ranging from depression to schizophrenia so MH was always something I was around but it was often brushed under the carpet, even my in family.
As a child and teen, friends and outside family didn't know I suffered from anything or was seeking help and I think my family kept it secret to protect me as many people back then and now harboured many misconceptions about MH.
I only decided to be open about MH once I hit my 20s and I realised just how many misconceptions there are, especially when it came to certain conditions I have such as OCD, CPTSD and panic disorder. Too often I was hearing things like "all OCD makes you do is wash your hands a lot", "everyone has a touch of OCD", "panic attacks only make you feel a little scared, sufferers exaggerate how bad they feel" etc. All those statements being completely untrue.
So I started opening up about mental health anonymously on here and other MH related forums and quickly, I realised just how many people were in the same boat as me and it gave me confidence to share more of my story and before I knew it, I was sharing it publicly on here and then even on Fb. The support I have received over the years has been great and I wish everyone could experience that when they open out about their conditions. I have had a couple of 'friends' admit that they think I am attention seeking for talking about it or that MH is something that should be kept private and personal yet, they broadcast all day long about their physical problems and they even admitted they unfollowed me on Fb because I post about MH now and then. On fb, I post about MH maybe once a month, I post about it way much on here and I try and never write it in a doom and gloom manner but that's not good enough for some people.
I feel like you often can't win with those people. Talk about mental health - your suffering can't be that bad if you can talk about therefore you're just an attention seeker. Don't talk about it - "don't be such a big baby, talk about it, it's not that bad" and you get told you're only adding to the stigma by not talking about it. Never understood the whole 'attention seeking' thing. A lot of people view you as weird, weak, annoying, a freak etc when you open up about MH and that's not the attention anyone wants so I don't understand that one but it seems to be common for people to assume you're an attention seeker if you're upfront about this topic.
Whatever people view me as, I'll continue to be frank and open about MH as it's helped others and has been therapeutic for me. There's no shame in MH
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- 06-01-2017 11:00
I'd say part of the premise here is not quite right, as a start - we do talk about mental health, but with the people we're comfortable with, so usually with close friends or family. So more accurately, why aren't we more comfortable talking about it in general? There's a stigma with the majority of illnesses, that not all people are comfortable with, whether through ignorance, or any other reason. Particularly where the illness is not visible, such as is the case with mental health.
It's a bit of a vicious cycle, in that people with mental health issues are afraid to talk to people, and many without have a level of ignorance with it that means they react poorly, and therefore it's scarier to talk to them. You can take it in different ways really, and I suspect several of those ways would a correct interpretation, to some level. People like to fix problems, to be able to offer solutions that will able to solve the issues, and that's frequently not possible with MH, or at least, not in such a simplistic sense. And without the default way of addressing things, some people don't know what to do instead, and end up doing something stupid instead. I agree with Bubbles, in that it's not always realised just a simple 'How are you?' or 'I'm hear if you need' can help, especially if you're really struggling at the time.
People need to be taught more on the subject, and for it to be put across in a way that they can understand. Part of the issue stems from comments like 'Oh, but everybody gets anxious sometimes', which can feel like a complete dismissal, when actually it's a lack of understanding, because they don't realise the severity of the anxiety from someone who actually suffers with it, compared to the day-to-day worries that other people might have. Whilst it shouldn't be on you to explain, at all, sometimes persevering with people can help, and they can actually end up being a lot more supportive/understanding than it might initially have seemed.
The most effective way to improve the situation is through education, and reducing the level of ignorance towards it. We get taught about so much in schools and in uni, and even by our parents, but never really about this, or at least, not in much detail. If you can make people more aware of MH issues, and most importantly, frame it in a way they understand, then far fewer people would accidentally cause offences, or push people away unintentionally. Yes, there isn't anything they can do to fix the issue, but sometimes that's okay. Having friends or family around, that will be there to support you, even if they don't always understand, is all anybody reaching out really needs.
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- 06-01-2017 11:16
I think it has to do with a fear of being judged, for not 'fitting in' with society because you have an illness that isn't physical.
I am extremely open with my mental health on TSR, and I think this is in part due to my diagnosis. I want to educate people on the internet that in quite a few cases (i.e. me) a person doesn't have to fit the textbook standard of this or that mental health illness. Occasionally, I also mention my mental health on my Twitter account when I actually use it.
However, when it comes to Facebook, where I have a lot of my family on it, I just tend to share posts on mental health, but I do not write anything about my own mental health. And this is where the fear comes in. Due to what I have and the misconceptions of it, as I don't fit in with the textbook norms, I know a lot of people would be quick to judge. Especially my family, who love nothing more than to gossip, and to nag my daddy. I love my father very much, and so I wouldn't want to cause anymore nagging for him, and so I keep quiet.
Not many in my family know I have mental health illnesses, and the ones who do know were told without my permission by my grandmother after I was hospitalised in 2015. I had wanted to keep my illnesses to myself, and only tell those who needed to know at the time, but she went behind my back and told all my daddy's brothers and sisters. (She also told them the wrong diagnosis, as I had then been recently re-diagnosed, and I have been again since. Due to her going behind my back, and the stigma around personality disorders, neither me or my father have told her my up-to-date diagnosis). She claimed she did this because apparently people needed to know in order to help me. Maybe so, but when I don't see many of my aunts and uncles for weeks, months on end, and I don't particular get on with them due to me being rather different, I still don't see why she did this to me nearly a year and a half later.
- 06-01-2017 11:26
There is still unfortunately a lack of understanding of mental illness and what causes it within lay society, though seems to have improved somewhat through media publicity.
Even I thought it would be something that would affect others and not myself, but in reality the individual has very little control over their affliction with mental illness - as we're not in control of either our genes or, for the most part, our environment.
I'm not sure, but it may be that the term 'mental illness' has negative connotations - with mental suggesting a basis entirely of the 'mind', which suggest to others that the individual may (or should) be able to control it. In reality, cognition is determined by underlying physiological processes (of neurology), and its presence cannot be entirely modulated by inhibitory cognitive processes (such as in OCD, for instance).Last edited by hellodave5; 06-01-2017 at 11:31.
- 06-01-2017 12:00
Nobody wants to be viewed as disabled or weak through having Mental Health issues.
- 06-01-2017 13:40
It's all fine and dandy trying to educate people on matters like this but there will be certain groups of people that you can't convince. Specifically, the populist movements that are springing up across the world wanting to prove to the rest of the world that "they are great". And thus disown anyone who they feel are not giving a **** and taking responsibility. They think it's too easy to blame everything on MH.
- 06-01-2017 13:51
I think a lot of people actually do talk about Mental Health imho, at least it seems that way on here but then again this is an online platform.
however Inrl i have had people say to me that they suffer from anxiety etc and i would have never suspected that because a)They have never talked about it and b)They seems fine on the outside.
I do thinks sometimes there is a danger for people to define themselves by their MH, ik that might be controversial and im not saying people shouldn't be open about it but i don't think it is a great idea to sort of live through it, like yes i may have these issues but im also a person that can be fun to be around, funny, creative etc. Ik that with especially more serious conditions that is harder and i am fortunate in a way to sometimes just box it all off and turn that side of me off whilst others can't because it is omnipresent.
I do agree with the above opinions that there is still quite a lot of ignorance about it and indeed i have that conversation with my inrl friend sometimes who feels the same way and is one of the few ppl inrl that i have been more open around bc ik she understands it herself.
Some people want to help but try to hard to relate which becomes frustrating because as nice as it is for someone to relate some things they just might not know about and at that point they could just listen rather than be an advice giver. Other people just take the attitude of get on with it which can be helpful in small quantities as i wouldn't want someone to pander to me constantly but doing that all the time is dismissive and hurtful. The last sort of 'category' i have experienced is people who want there to be some black and white explanation for everything like 'Why do u feel this way', sometimes there are reasons sometimes there aren't and i can't do anything about that. That is frustrating for people because i feel that people often like to 'fix' other people and if they can't find the cause they can't fix it.
I think it is for those reasons that people sometimes dont talk about it, I talk about it with certain people bc ik they are more open minded and don't judge but in family circles i just shut my mouth bc they don't see it as a proper thing or akin to anything physical
so yeh that is my humble view point.
- 06-01-2017 15:58
I think there is also a certain stigma concerning mental health brought on from a very early age from our peers.
I remember at school it was seen as attention seeking, it used to seem like all the 'emo' kids used to cut themselves and constantly say how depressed they were, as did certain girls who were known for attention seeking behaviours. As I got older I started to realise people from other groups did struggle with mental health issues too but in silence, so started seeing those who rather openly talked about it as attention seekers, like the emos from my youth.
As I got older I did realise mental health issue for many of those people may of been very real, but I still can't help but presume in many cases it was attention seeking. Especially with women who often self prescribed clinical depression. Everyone experiences depression at some point due to life event and it's completely natural and the vast majority of us will eventually get over this naturally. However it still seems like people want to be seen as clinically depressed even in such situations. The amount of girls I knew who would go to the doctors after breakups or arguments with their partners to try and get antidepressants was shocking, and quite often they were freely handed out!
And this brings me onto the next point, gender issues regarding mental health. Ignoring more extreme mental health disorders such as schizophrenia or PTSD which are often stereotyped as male dominated disorders, it's increasingly common for men not to talk about such issues. And this isn't as simple as not wanting to talk about it, they often are actively discouraged or talked out of doing so. I've recently heard men from the older generations say how more guys need to 'man up' or that they should cry etc in their own time and in private as they have to be the pillar for their families. I know many guys, myself included have suicidal thoughts and have no-one to speak to because of these kind of individuals. You can't speak to your family because you don't want to drop the fact you're suicidal onto them, you can't talk to your friends because often you'll get shut down and surprisingly you'd rather not talk about it to complete strangers down some charity phone line.
And this isn't just the younger generation, we now live in an era of disenfranchised men, who no longer can fill the stereotypical bread earner roles due to how the modern world is but still lack control over their relationships, often lose access to their children and then have to hand extremely high amounts of money or their home to their ex partners. In my workplace I see men going through these situations, often lacking the support structure women often have, who are obviously extremely depressed, borderline alcohol dependant, often obviously suicidal but keep up the 'strong man' image when their friends and family are around. These are men with nothing left to lose, but live in a society that still thinks they oppress their female partners and results in highly sexist divorce proceedings.
And people often wonder why suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45.Last edited by DanB1991; 06-01-2017 at 16:00.
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- 06-01-2017 16:14
Imho, we don't talk about mental health openly because many mental health conditions are (sadly) still rather stigmatised by mainstream society. Even something as common as depression (I believe the statistics show it affects 20-40% of the British population at some point in their lives) can attract negativity, prejudice, judgement and accusations of attention-seeking/special snowflake syndrome/hyperchondria/whatever.
I personally put this, at least in part, to the type of society we live in. In this 21st century age of technology, where instant knowledge and gratification is at one's fingertips for the most part, we don't like things we can't see, quantify, or understand fully/immediately. It is really hard to understand what mental illness involves - both for the sufferer and the carers - unless one has experience of it... and in this age where we have access to almost anything and everything, we don't like things we don't know/understand.
I, for my own part, am very vocal on here and on my Facebook... but my extended family and the Sri Lankan community members who have added me can't see my posts (though apparently they saw former posts before I blocked them. Ooops). This is at my mother's request, because having a mental illness is still so shameful and even more stigmatised than it is here, in South Asian countries and their communities. My having a mental health problem can affect my sisters' marital prospects and the way my parents are viewed/treated by the community So I have to keep my mouth shut in those circles. For now at least...
- 06-01-2017 16:20
Inadequate education is what I blame. If people don't talk about it to educate people at the very least, then people are going to grow up stigmatizing it or assuming its not something you should discuss- when in fact that's the very thing we should be doing. Mental health has to be something you're open to discuss.
- 06-01-2017 17:13
As a male, I've noticed that my worries are quickly dismissed. I'm sure it happens for women too, but men are incredibly discriminated against
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- 06-01-2017 17:14
We do not talk about mental health because society considers everyone with a mental health problem 'crazy' or not as suitable for university, work, etc as people with none. After all, why hire someone with a First in the best subject for the job and work experience but who has OCD when you can have someone with the same results and experience with no mental problems?
From my experience, most therapists, counselors, and other such professionals treat the person as if they are below them, unable to decide for themselves, and as if they should not even be in school/work as well, regardless of what the person's problem is. (For hell's sake, I have anxiety. That does not mean I am unable to decide how many subjects I can take at A-level, just that I get nervous easily.)
I have mental health issues. I know I do. I refuse to be diagnosed, though.
Because then everyone would treat me differently and I may not even get a place for university or a good job if my employer finds out my mental health is not perfect.
Hell, when I did my AS levels, my teachers tried to force me to drop one of my subjects because of this. They did not care about my academic ability; they only cared about the fact that I had mental health problems. (Needless to say, I got the highest grade possible.) I was also demoted from being my tutor group's representative and a student Ambassador because of my problems. Why? Because they thought that would help me, of course! They were being selfless and caring and meeting my 'needs'! (Or so they thought.)
What they did not realise was that those extracurriculars I did helped my mental health a lot. They thought not being involved in any extracurriculars and only taking 3 A-levels would help me, when in reality, taking as many A-levels as possible and being involved in all the extracurriculars I wanted were the things what helped me. I tried to tell them, but of course, they did not listen. I am a crazy, mentally ill person who cannot decide for themselves, after all, even though my mental health issues are mild anxiety and insomnia, which do not impact my judgement in any way.
So, I refuse to talk about mental health, especially mine. I do not want anyone to be treated as unfairly as I was for it, so I will never start a conversation about mental health.Last edited by Michiyo; 06-01-2017 at 17:22.
- 06-01-2017 17:58
I don't talk about my mental health because I don't want to be judged by my diagnosis instead of being judged for myself. People tend to feel like if they know someone with your diagnosis, or have seen them in a television show or done some reading on it, then they know everything. My issues aren't the same as another person with the same diagnosis. I don't handle it in the same way as another person does. And in most cases, I feel like it's less 'visible' for me than others as I'm very much a positive person and a believer in the 'faking it until you make it' attitude. e.g. I feel like I can't handle a situation. But even though I'm terrified I'm going to pretend I'm strong and force myself through it instead of running away and hiding. I'll probably be sweating like a pig and on edge the whole time but I do my best.
- 06-01-2017 18:10
I think sometimes we don't talk about mental health problems because we are afraid not many people will understand how we are feeling and will judge us. but the reality seems to be that a lot of people go through these problems, and if we all spoke about it or even asked each other how we are genuinely doing more often, then perhaps the situation would get better. I find it hard to talk about too but once someone starts the conversation, it is s relief to be able to speak!
- 06-01-2017 18:57
I agree that MH is both being discussed and under discussed in certain circumstances. Personally I was diagnosed with Bipolar after being admitted to hospital, but after seeing a therapist they dismissed the diagnosis and treated me for depression. Due to this I educated myself on most things mental health, but also as a young adult and a 'millennial' as our culture and society expands on it. I do voluntary work with young carers who may care for someone with a mental health condition. I am currently working on a project to help improve Mental Health services too. So as you can see Mental Health things are a big part of my life. Despite this I still keep quiet sometimes.
- One reason I think MH may not be talked about is because its seen as difficult and uncomfortable: Everyone has mental health, just like we all have physical health and with it everyone's is different. But we don't know or understand everything about our minds and mental health and some people don't want to understand anything at all. Some people will show their ignorance to your face, others through passive aggressive comments. Its difficult to educate someone on the matters when they're sticking their fingers in their ears. But there again, and this is no excuse, it is difficult to understand if you've never been though something. Personally, if I'm discussing my own MH with friends or family, it becomes uncomfortable or problematic, I feel misunderstood and then because they are close to me and don't get it, I feel hurt or even guilty. But this is be because we might not know how to support each other or know what to say. Talking online allows a level of anonymity and for some reason that helped me the most. Some people might not have a support network available or anyone at all to talk to.
- Another reason, labels and stigma. Including 'attention seeker', 'special snowflake', etc: When people talking about MH on social media I see it as a way to spread the message and fight the stigma but also to see who will support them. I'm an introvert and I keep myself to myself when possible so if I can find a way to retract attention I'll most likely go with it, but this was a way for me to steer myself away from those labels and stigma. I feel that once you mention you have a MH condition, an opinion is formed, once an opinion is formed, it can feel limiting as if a conclusion has already been met before the books even been opened. It can feel limiting not only on a personal level but also in regards to work and education too and makes you feel as though your opportunities are limited. Also the labels society impose on you can cause a contradiction to ever struggling with mental health and so you feel like you should or shouldn't feel a certain way. This especially applies to the increase of male suicide. Taboo is a reason too. Expressing you suffer with an anxiety condition would be more accepted than expressing you suffer with drug addiction/dependency, both are mental illness' but both receive from society, different stigma, labels, levels of acceptance, acknowledgment and treatment.
- Even with those who support your mental health it can be hard to talk. Very few, but still some make it feel like an entire checklist must be met before you can acquire a special credentials to say 'I am struggling'. But those who suffer a MH condition may feel the discussion around it becomes invalid when people misuse struggling. Almost like an essay with no references. So when someone feels like they have a problem and they have no diagnosis they may find it difficult to talk when some people use a 'rule' that only a diagnosis makes it valid. But only very few people are like this. Some find it difficult talking about feeling bad again as they fear the level of support would be over-bearing or not to their needs.Talking about MH when feeling vulnerable, sensitive and/or tired can be one of the most difficult things to do. But also not even knowing or understanding what you feel can be hard to express. In turn it can also cause you to then question the validity and importance of your feelings. But also not talking about it may be a way to avoid the problem.
When suffering from a MH condition they may feel shame and so choose not to talk about it. Or the MH condition and symptoms could stop them. It could cause isolation, to suffer feelings of guilt or suffer hallucinations, etc.
There are many other reasons from personal to societal to cultural. But talking about mental health educates people and fights the stigma.