This years World Mental Health Day was focusing on dignity in mental health and towards those who have mental illnesses. Therefore I thought I would write about what dignity in mental health means to me and how I see it at the moment. I also thought I’d share some experiences and how I felt they affected my dignity. These are my own personal views.
Part of the definition of dignity that I looked up talked about a feeling of worthiness and self respect. These are two elements that I think are important to consider when looking at dignity in mental health. Being treated with dignity should be about being treated like we are worth treatment and support. Sometimes this is not the case and it can have a negative effect on the individual who is being treated. After an attempt on my own life I was made to feel I was wasting people’s time and this led to me feeling worse about myself than I was already feeling. This I believe was due to staff showing a lack of care about my dignity and not making me feel I was worth the effort of treatment,
I have also had good experiences where I was made to feel like I was totally worth the treatment I required and therefore was treated with dignity. This is particularly the case with my GP who is fantastic and very supportive. She respects me and treats me with dignity at all times. This in turn means that I feel that I can discuss my care and treatment more openly with her and I know that if I have any symptoms or things that are worrying me I can easily talk it through with her without fear of judgement. This is the care we all deserve in all areas of the health system; not just mental health but physical health too. Unfortunately this is not always the case as my previous experience has shown.
I also mentioned that the definition I looked at for the word dignity mentioned self respect. I think this is important too. I have previously written about self stigmatisation and I think that by self stigmatising I have shown a lack of self respect and also therefore a lack of dignity towards myself. If we are to expect dignity from other people towards our mental health then we need to also show dignity towards ourselves. I understand that this is easier said than done. I myself struggle to feel worthy of treatment and help at times especially when my mental health is at its worst. This is another reason dignity from other people is so important in mental health as we need to learn from others that we are worthy of being shown dignity and we need to also learn how to do that sometimes. Thinking back to my GP she has shown me that I do need to discuss what is going on in my head and therefore by her listening I open up more. This is an example of being taught my worth and how to respect myself and my mental health. In turn this teaches me how to have dignity for my own mental health.
Overall dignity in mental health means to me that we are shown and taught our worth as well as learning how to be respected and respect ourselves. To me this is something that is majorly important in improving the treatment of those of us who have mental illnesses. I know that many staff already do a fantastic job and I hope they continue to do so and teach others that dignity is necessary for recovery.