The view that only a certain kind of person is susceptible to mental health issues is wide spread. In the eyes of the world, the criteria for mental illness are not to do with mood, state-of-mind or self-perception. Mentally ill people are often thought of as lazy, under-achieving, unintelligent, badly dressed, unhygienic, dislikable or violent, but there aren’t any statistics to stand by these speculations.
In the four years that I’ve been in contact with mental health professionals, more often than not, I’ve been left frustrated. My GP turned red when he was obliged to ask if I’d been having any more of my ‘Erm… issues’. I was told by a therapist that I self-harmed to get attention because people don’t self-harm due to anxiety. (This still bewilders me…) I was told my depression would alleviate of it’s own accord because I’m ‘a nice girl’. Doctor’s were reticent to recognise there was a problem, despite me meeting all the diagnostic criteria, because I was well-dressed, polite and could hold a conversation. When I was transferred to adult services on turning eighteen I met the regional consultant who asked me to tell him my history. His response to which was: ‘What? Seriously? But, you’re… nice!’ Society has even managed to engrain that mental illness only affects a specific kind of person in people that spend their lives working in mental health care. . .
We all accept that our bodies have their weak spots; maybe a bad back, a sensitive stomach or a dodgy thyroid, but no one wants to accept that they have emotional weak spots too; maybe a tendency to catastrophise, to become paranoid or to lose control of their temper when things go wrong. Just like no one is 100% physically healthy, no one is 100% mentally healthy. If you have a mind, you have the potential to become mentally ill. We all think that we are somehow personally exempt. ‘It’ll never happen to me.’ We’re all wrong, but some of us will discover that the hard way.
Read more of N’s story. Visit The Mechanics of a Malfunctioning Mind: Blog for Mental Health 2015.