Category Archives: Battling Stigma

Goodbye Time To Change

The mental health campaign Time To Change is closing at the end of March 2021. I’ve been involved with them at different times so this is my goodbye to them.

For those that don’t know, Time To Change is a mental health campaign started in the UK ten years ago. It’s a social movement, meaning it’s work is based on using those with lived experience to talk to others to raise awareness of mental health and mental illness. They have done this in many different ways, from holding events to helping people share their stories with those in power. It has also expanded globally in the last few years.

My first experience with Time To Change was asking them to look at a portrayal in a programme that made people with mental illness seem like attention seekers. They then asked me to write a blog post about this for them. It was one of the first pieces of writing about mental illness I had done. They gave me confidence to start my own blog up, sharing my experiences and thoughts.

In 2015 they sent emails out about a new event, Story Camp, that those with an interest in sharing their experiences about mental illness could sign up to, to learn about how to do it effectively. This included bloggers and media volunteers. I applied and never thought I’d be chosen to take part, but I was. So on 10th September 2015, I headed to London to take part in workshops and listen to others speak. The people I met were amazing. One is now one of my closest friends. Others inspire me greatly. I was too nervous to say hello to my biggest inspiration, Jonny Benjamin, but he was there talking to us all and I snuck a photo. I was in awe.

I carried on writing my blog and using their tips to improve. I signed up as an official Time To Change champion and this led to me becoming part of the local hub being set up in my home town. I did some training again with them, though becoming ill again meant I didn’t take part as much as I’d of liked.

So Time To Change has been at many different parts of me sharing my experiences. And for that I’m grateful. The training offered is high quality and the people I’ve met through them are amazing. I’ll miss having the opportunities they’ve offered and actually feeling valued by an organisation. They’ve validated me and many others.

While we are saying goodbye to Time To Change, we are not saying goodbye to the work they’ve done. It’s definitely made mental health less of a taboo. We still have much work to do with making people understand other mental illnesses as well as they seem to of accepted depression and anxiety. This will continue with those it has trained up and given confidence to.

So thank you Time To Change, and goodbye.

Found my notes from Story Camp 2015

Why I Hate The Term “Mental Resilliance”

“Mental resilliance” is a phrase that keeps cropping up. But it is a phrase I have come to hate with a passion, especially with the way it is being used. It’s connotations make me uncomfortable and I cannot accept it.

First of all I think we need a definition of the word resilience. I’ve found a definition of it in psychology:
“The ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, and even significant sources of stress.” Better Help, 2019

This doesn’t sound too bad. It suggests that we can learn how to get over issues more quickly. However this has led to people taking the phrase and believing that people with a mental illness should be more able to get over a mental illness quicker if they are resilient or even not suffer in the first place. This has been shown by comments made by prominent people in the media.

The problem with these comments is that they imply that if you get ill mentally you are not resilient enough. It gives a sense of failure and that you are not a strong person. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Quite often people with mental illnesses are strong and resilient for too long. They don’t seek help straight away as they feel they should be able to deal with it. This talk of resilience reinforces it.

So what should we be doing?

I’m not saying there is no place for teaching skills to help with mental resilience as it is useful to deal with stressful situations in the short term. However we need to make the narrative clear that mental resilience is not a concrete prevention against mental illness. It is still possible to become unwell even if you are resilient. It does not mean you are weak if you become unwell. Mental illnesses are often caused by things outside our control and for that we need treatment.

Instead, as well as teaching true mental resilience, we need to be saying that it’s OK to talk about our feelings in times of distress. It does not make us a “whiny snowflake”. It is a strong thing to do and will help with our resilience in the future. We need to be helping each other. Just because your younger and suffering does not mean you are less resilient than someone older. All it shows is that I’m the past people couldn’t speak about mental illness and now they can. That is resilience but in a different way.

I think what we need to do is reclaim the term mental resilience and educate people on what it means. We need to take on these people who seek a generational divide about living with a mental illness. We need to change the language we use.

So my question today is what do you think we should be teaching in terms of mental resilience? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Harry Potter Does Not Equal Hate

This isn’t a typical mental health blog but it’s one I needed to write. With the abhorrent tweets from J. K. Rowling, it left me questioning a huge part of me. I have a love for Harry Potter. And this situation made me question it all. Should I rid myself of everything related to it? How can I cut such a huge chunk of me out? I had to really think. I came to my conclusion and here are my thoughts about it and how I got there. I only made it coherent when talking to someone else who was having the same struggle.

With J. K. Rowling, I’ve decided she is not Harry Potter. That has grown bigger than her. It’s the people who love it that have made it what it is. The people who have brought it to life. It is the friendships it’s formed and the lives its saved. And those people are statistically more open and accepting than the rest of the world. (Info on study here)

As the wizarding world is bigger than her my friend who I was discussing it with said maybe we should focus on supporting the publishers and actors. The actors have spoken against her. (Find details here). They know the world is more than her. She had an idea but others took it further and the wizarding world made it it’s own. They removed it from being about one person. With any fandom it’s not just about the creator. The fans take hold and it belongs to them rather than the creator.

In the story it teaches us to be accepting of all. It shows us that differences can be overcome and it shows that people who try to eliminate anyone from society will not go far. She wrote her own downfall in these books. She showed the fans of Harry Potter that you can not push out a whole section of society and expect no backlash or to keep your status. It will catch up with you.

I’m not going to feel guilt for liking and loving something that actually made me feel part of the world a little bit. For being the kid with no friends who then finds them later on. For needing a bit of magic in my life to deal with the shit storm it was. Harry Potter to me is not about J. K. Rowling. Its about the friendships it created, its about the magical world, its about finding something that made me see that people should be accepted in society and sometimes we just need to find the right people, it’s not us causing the issue.

My final words are for the people of the trans community. You’re not on your own. We love you andd accept you. We want you in our society. You make it a better place. Keep fighting together and we will beat people like her. Big love.

We Need To Talk About… Psychosis

Psychosis! What do you think it means? Does it mean schizophrenia? Does it mean being locked up? Does it mean there is no hope? These things are things I thought before I experienced psychosis and I know many still think this way. This is why we need to talk about psychosis.

So what is psychosis?

Psychosis is made up of many different symptoms. Some people will have many, some only one. They include:

  • Hallucinations (these may be visual, auditory, tactile or related to smell and taste)
  • Delusions (having strong beliefs not shared by others, for example, people are going to hurt you)

Does everyone with psychosis have schizophrenia?

It’s a common assumption that the only people that experience psychosis are those with schizophrenia. This simply isn’t the case. Many mental illnesses may cause a person to experience psychosis. These include bipolar, depression and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). Psychosis can also be a result of physical illness or trauma.

Will someone with psychosis recover?

There is hope for those with psychosis. Many people will only have one episode of psychosis. Psychosis can also be managed with medication. There is a variety of antipsychotics. Of course as with any medication there can be side effects but these often are often outweighed by the benefits. It can also be a process of finding what works for you. Sometimes, when the psychosis is caused by trauma, psychosis can be helped by therapy.

What does someone with psychosis look like?

There is no specific way that someone who experiences psychosis looks. The term “psychotic look” which is often used to describe a way someone is looking is a work of fiction. Those with psychosis look like everyone else. The signs are more likely to be in their behaviour.

A last thought

People with psychosis experience extreme stigma. We are made out to be “crazy” and someone to be feared. In fact we are more likely to be a danger to ourselves or be at risk from others. It can be scary to see someone dealing with psychosis but remember they are probably scared too.

For more information about psychosis click here.

To share your experience feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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All I Want For Christmas

I was thinking about things I’d really like for Christmas. Obviously there are the materialistic items (🤞Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire illustrated edition) but also there are some huge things I would love to see happen personally and more for mental health in our society. Therefore I thought I’d share some of my wishes (though I’m aware with just 2 and a half weeks to Christmas (at time of writing) these are unlikely to happen, maybe 2020).

1. No suicidal thoughts

This is personal, although I wish it for everyone. I’d just like to be like others and not be wanting to die on a near constant basis. It feels impossible at the moment when my first thought on waking is I wish I wasn’t alive. It would be nice to have at least a break from the overwhelming thoughts of dying.

2. Shorter waiting times

This is one for everyone in mental health services. Often we wait forever for support. It can be from weeks to months to years. It’s really not good enough. I’ve been referred for therapy again and been told if the referral is accepted I could be waiting up to two years. We need real change in this area to stop people falling through the gaps.

3. Continuity of care

This is huge to me and so many others. Seeing the same person is essential in all areas of health but the turnover of staff in mental health is huge. This means we often are faced with new staff at our most vulnerable who know nothing about us. I’ve lost count of the number of psychiatrists I’ve seen in the last two years. It is nearly always someone new. I’m on my fifth care coordinator of the year. The changes effect my mental health massively. We need to retain staff.

4. More money for mental health research

Mental health is one of the least funded areas of research in medicine. Yet again it is the poor relation in health care. It is also one of the least understood areas. This needs to change when it effects so many people. It would also help other areas of health care as helping people with their mental health aids them looking after their physical health too.

5. Better self esteem.

This is a personal one. I hate myself. It’s not a secret. I have no feeling of self worth. I put myself down constantly. It needs to change but it’s a struggle so if I could get it magically fixed for Christmas that would be great.

6. My friends to be well

My final wish is that all my friends have good mental health. That they feel better. I want so much for them to see their worth. That they are awesome. In fact I want it for all of you. You are all fabulous. Thank you for being amazing.

Feel free to share your own Christmas wishes in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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A Paradox

Please be aware some of the content may be triggering. Please take care.

A paradox: a person or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.

I love the word paradox. I think it’s one of my favourites. I don’t know where I discovered it but it totally made sense to me straight away. I am a paradox a lot of the time. In my mental health, in the food I like, in my interests, in my personality. Most of the time I don’t mind this. I feel it makes me that little more interesting. I have found others who are a paradox too and they’re awesome, interesting people. But sometimes it means that in certain situations I’m not taken seriously.

I mentioned that I’m often a paradox with regards to my mental health. What I meant by this is that my behaviour is often contradictory to my thoughts and feelings. This can mean when I’m in distress I’m not taken as seriously. I can understand this to an extent but as most people with a mental illness are good actors anyway it should be thought about.

Take this morning. I’ve been actively thinking about suicide. I feel so low and useless. But with my care coordinator I laughed at a couple of things and had a sense of humour. This made it seem I was better than I was. It was contradictory, a paradox.

I also felt I was worthless. Then I had an email about helping review mental health factsheets and put myself forward. I feel I’m rubbish at what I do yet still I try to do more.

Being a paradox can be interesting but it can also be highly frustrating. Sometimes I want people to understand and see I’m not OK without me saying. This doesn’t happen as I can laugh and joke and still feel depressed. People don’t take my reactions to questions and comments saying I’m suicidal seriously. I’m dismissed by professionals who can’t see that I’m really struggling because my actions aren’t always in line with my feelings.

Also I can feel extremely suicidal to the point of making plans but still be doing things that suggest I’m still going to be around in time. The thing is this doesn’t mean my suicidal thoughts are any less serious. I still am desperate to die and can even make an attempt on my life despite future plans recently made. This is the reality of being a paradox.

I think there needs to be more awareness of paradoxes in mental health. It can leave people isolated when their actions go against what people expect from the mental illness. The truth is mental illness comes in many guises and this needs to be recognised more widely, especially with regards to those of us who are a paradox.

To comment further on this subject feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Murder Not Mental Illness

I wouldn’t normally comment on things that happen in America as it is not my country. But this is an issue that comes up again and again with regards to mass shootings in America. The common rhetoric is to claim the perpetrator is mentally ill. Now it is possible that they do have a mental illness but for the number of mass shootings that happen each year in America, that is a lot of mentally ill people with access to guns.

The truth is that these mass shootings are murder. Even terrorism. Often racism is at the core. This isn’t mental illness. Racism isn’t a mental illness. It’s a societal issue. Also America is not the only place where people are mentally ill, yet the number of mass shootings that occur there is disproportionately high. Surely this points to a deeper issue (*coughs* gun laws).

Here is the reality. People with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. I only have access to British statistics but this paragraph from Time to Change’s website shows the rate of murder caused by someone acting as part of their mental illness:

“According to the British Crime Survey, almost half (47 per cent) of the victims of violent crimes believed that their offender was under the influence of alcohol and about 17 per cent believed that the offender was under the influence of drugs. Another survey suggested that about 30 per cent of victims believed that the offender attacked them because they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In contrast, only 1 per cent of victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness.” Time to Change (Accessed August 2019).

It shows that while mental illness can cause someone to become violent, the chances are you’re more likely to be killed by someone drinking or on drugs. Yet this is never given as a possible explanation to those carrying out mass shootings. They also forget to mention that those with a mental illness are more of a risk to themselves than others.

It’s too easy to blame mental illness. To take something that people already fear and stigmatise against and use it to “explain” something so scary. People don’t want to think that someone who is a neurotypical person can be capable of causing so much death and destruction. But that is the case. Their brain may have been warped but it is not by mental illness, it is by racist ideologies (most of the time).

I know there will be many who won’t accept that mental illness is not to blame in the majority of cases. The thing is, even if a person is mentally ill, there are many other things that contribute to these situations. You need to look at your treatment of those with mental illnesses. You need to look at the ease of access to guns. It is not simply “this person was mentally ill and so there was nothing we could do”. Even when a person with a mental illness is violent, there are things that can be done to reduce this risk as there are often signs that this may happen.

So there we have it. Think before you say that a perpetrator is/was mentally ill. You are adding to the stigma. Maybe think what could be changed to prevent this ever happening again. What could of prevented it. What was the real motive. It is more than likely much deeper than “they were mentally ill”. Think. Yes, I’m looking at you Mr. President.

If you have any thoughts feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Please Stop Hating A BPD Diagnosis

I have seen a lot of tweets absolutely rubbishing the BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) diagnosis. I’ve seen tweets saying the diagnosis isnt valid or that it is a misdiagnosis of another mental illness. This has upset me a lot as someone with a BPD diagnosis.

As someone with BPD, I recognise that it is not always an appropriate diagnosis. I know that some people are misdiagnosed. I know that it carries a lot of stigma. But it has value.

When your world is in turmoil and you find yourself dipping repeatedly into crisis and your relationships are unstable, when you don’t know who you are or what you really like because you pick up on other people’s mannerisms and likes, it feels awful. You feel like you are made wrong. You feel like you are weak. You hate yourself so much for not being “normal”. You are scared. Now imagine someone tells you there is a reason you feel this way and it’s not your fault. There is some feeling of relief and enlightenment. Maybe your life isn’t over just yet. Maybe your life can be worth living. That’s what it can be like getting a BPD diagnosis. I imagine it feels like that for any mental health diagnosis.

The problem with the BPD diagnosis is not the people with the diagnosis but the stigma that surrounds the name. It’s the interpretation that some people attribute to it that doesn’t help. Whatever you call it, it is the same illness with the same symptoms. It is a valid illness and those who deal with it everyday will still have to deal with it whether you take away that diagnosis or not. What you do though, if you take away the diagnosis, is isolate people who are suffering with these confusing symptoms. You take away the hope that they can get treatment and stop them accessing the peer support available in the BPD community. As with any mental illness, other people who are dealing with the same thing are a lifeline and show more understanding than anyone else. To take away the diagnosis, removes this opportunity for us.

So before you say our diagnosis is invalid or just a misdiagnosis, please take into account those of us who see it as an explanation for what we are pdealing with and as an opportunity to get treatment and support. (I know that there are some people who are misdiagnosed and for them yes it is appropriate to question the diagnosis but I am responding to a general statement about people with BPD just being misdiagnosed.)

A side note

I know some people will say a BPD diagnosis is unhelpful. I have written another post where I discuss why a BPD diagnosis is useful which you can find here.

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An Open Letter To Instagram

Dear Instagram

I have recently been made aware that you are hiding the recent posts with mental health hashtags. I feel this is totally unacceptable on many levels.

I understand that you have done this in the name of safety, but in actual fact you are making things a lot less safe for those with these conditions. Social media by its nature is made to connect people and by eliminating these hashtags you are removing people’s ability to connect with others who have the same condition or who are going through the same thing. This creates a feeling that people are alone in their struggles and can’t see how other people deal with the condition. This could lead to more feelings of suicide and self harm as they try to cope alone.

Another issue I have with you removing these hashtags is that you are eliminating the chance of people sharing positivity among the mental health community. Many people who use these hashtags share uplifting quotes, ways they cope and general support and awareness. By stopping this you are leaving people with the negativity of the illnesses they endure.

Furthermore on researching this I found that it was still possible to use hashtags for physical illnesses. This shows blatant stigma towards those of us with a mental illness. Yes, mental illness sees people who have a symptom of suicidal ideation, but this can also be caused by people experiencing a physical illness. Mental health is important and equal to physical health.

If you want a truly safe community then your aim should be to moderate posts better rather than a blanket bam on mental health hashtags. Yes there may be individual posts that are damaging to those in a vulnerable state but your aim should be to target these posts and leave the useful and positive posts attached to the hashtag. This could help those who are unwell.

I hope you take this on board. You can contact me via the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Unhelpful Things That Have Been Said To Me

This is a personal piece. Please be aware that some content may be triggering.

I’m currently in a state of crisis. I’ve been struggling with self harm and suicidal thoughts. I’ve been quite open about this on social media and had lots of supportive messages but there have also been some extremely unhelpful comments too. Here are a few.

“Everyone feels like this some days, it will be better tomorrow” – A well meaning comment I know but for those who have a chronic mental illness it feels like you are downplaying what we are feeling and going through. Often tomorrow won’t be a better day. In fact it could be ten times worse. This makes us feel like we are doing something wrong to still be in this pit of despair. Also not everyone goes through what we are going through. A lot of people will experience similar things but what each person feels is unique to them. While there may be some comfort in knowing we are not alone, pretending everyone has experienced it just makes us feel like we are not coping as well as others do.

“I’ve heard camomile tea is calming” – This was said to me by someone with a mental illness and again I know they meant well. The problem is camomile tea is not going to solve suicidal thoughts. My mental illness is much more complicated than that. If it was as simple as that I wouldn’t repeatedly fall into crisis.

“Have faith in God” – I have nothing against anyone who believes in God or follows a religion. That is great for you and if it helps you to feel better than I am pleased for you. However please don’t try to make me believe in God or have a faith. There may be a number of reasons someone doesn’t have a faith and even if they do it can not always help them when dealing with a mental illness. It is not a crisis of faith that causes mental illness.

“There’s plenty to do that could take your mind off things” – I know that keeping busy can be useful to distract from the distressing thoughts but I had been doing hours of distraction and keeping busy when this was said to me. I felt like I couldn’t do anymore and even when I was busy the thoughts were still there. Also sometimes it is not possible to just keep going. Having a mental illness can be so exhausting in itself that doing something else is just impossible. Distraction also only works for so long. Eventually your thoughts will catch up with you if you don’t deal with them.

Those are just what have been said to me this time round in crisis. There have been many more that I have experienced over the course of having had a mental illness.

If you have had some unhelpful things said to you and feel you would like to share, feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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