This post was written by Charlotte Cowell-Walker Representative for the North West of England on UK Youth Voice. You can read more blogs from UK Youth Voice by clicking here and follow them on twitter @UKYV.
Mental health stigma affects everyones well-being.
With one in four people experiencing a mental health problem at some point in their lives, we all know someone who could be affected. This could be our friends, partners, family members, work colleagues or a complete stranger.
We should take action whether it’s us or not. In fact, I believe it is those three people who can take the most action. If the three out of four people learnt about mental health awareness and took time to educate others, they could help stop stigma and discrimination towards mental health.
I’m challenging you to help make a difference.
Challenge the way people think
We all have a brain. If it was called brain health, would have the same stigma and discrimination? What if mental health was visible and left a unique mark to each person? Would people be kinder or still presume to know what’s going on inside?
Imagine you’ve broken your leg, then you would go to see a doctor. They give you a leaflet and put you down on a six months’ waiting list. You wait six months to then be told it might be two years before you’re seen. You’d agree that it is unacceptable. But when it comes to mental health, this is often the process we have to follow.
We can challenge the way we think; how we think about others; how we are kind and how we can make a difference. We need to be bold and challenge stigma and discrimination towards mental health. We shouldn’t presume to know someone’s battle.
I challenge you to ask questions to see what you can do to help, to think before you speak and support those with mental health difficulties.
Why it’s important to me
I have been diagnosed with Dissociative Identify Disorder (DID). I am not ‘mad’ nor am I attention seeking or time wasting. DID is a coping mechanism. DID is treatable via long term individual psychotherapy.
It took me seven years from my first mental health appointment at 16 years old to be diagnosed. I have been in therapy for two years and now moving on to EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). This is psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of life experiences. I have at least two years left. My DID experience is unique like all mental health experiences are.
My everyday life
Every day is different – to say the least. Imagine planning your day – start by brushing your teeth, you blink the day is over. This can be reality for with people with DID – missing days or sometimes weeks at a time. I suffer from memory loss, confusion of identity, depression, gender dysphoria and frequent tiredness.
It’s different for everyone – some people dress differently or speak with a different voice. In my dissociative state, when someone else is running the ship, you might just think I’m being a bit rude or dazed or passive. Most of the time no one can tell. But DID is different for everyone.
Make a difference
I used to get angry about the stigma and discrimination towards me. But after telling my story and creating awareness, I realised that I could change that. I aim to use my passion to make a real difference. Through UK Youth Voice, I’ve learnt some ways to do this – but I can’t do it alone.
Here are five ways you can help:
- Educate yourself – ask people, research, volunteer
- Share what you’ve learnt with others
- Challenge stigma
- Support others
It’s up to all of us, please be open, listen, learn and share.