Tag Archives: Time to Change

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.

Picture from Pinterest

Body Image

This year’s mental health awareness week has the topic of body image. I was unsure how to cover this as I don’t have an eating disorder or body dysmorphia. However I realised I have had my own issues with my body and my mental illness has effected how I feel about myself physically.

What is body image?

“Body image is a person’s perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body. It involves how a person sees themselves, compared to the standards that have been set by society.” (Wikipedia, May 2019).

My body image

Throughout my life I have been overweight. This has led to me hating my body and the way I look. It’s eaten away at my self esteem and led to me having little confidence in myself. My body image has had a negative effect on my mental health. It hasn’t been helped by the medication I’m on leading me to gain even more weight. It has become a bit of a cycle of feeling worse so increasing meds leading to increasing weight and then feeling worse again.

People have told me that they have found me attractive or that there are nice features of me. I struggle to believe it and cannot see this at all. My body image in their eyes is skewed. I think this hasn’t been helped by the trauma I’ve been through that has led to me hating my body even more. I can only see something that has been used and abused. Something that has let me down when I’ve needed it most.

Improving body image

There are some things we can do to help our body image. They are not always easy and it won’t be a quick fix.

The first thing you can do is avoid negative media. Avoid looking at diet accounts and airbrushed models. They give us a false representation of what we feel we should look like and feed into our doubts about ourselves. Instead try and look for body positivity accounts to follow. Body Positive Panda is a great account on Instagram to follow and there are many more like her.

Another thing we can do to improve our body image is to stop comparing ourselves to others. Easier said than done, I know (I am probably one of the worst offenders for this). But we should know that we are unique.

We can also improve body image by dressing in a way that makes us feel confident. This will be different for everyone. I’m most confident in a funny t-shirt and jeans. Others may prefer a suit. It’s up to you.

Practicing self care can also help with body image. Seeing ourselves as someone who is worth treating nicely and respecting our bodies will have a positive impact.

For more information on body image check out National Eating Disorders who have lots of information (you don’t need to have an eating disorder to have a problem with body image). Feel free to share your experiences and tips for better body image in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

My Suicide Experience

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some content may be triggering. This post will mention suicide but no methods will be shared.

14 years ago today I tried to end my life for the first time. I was 15. I had already been showing signs of mental illness for a couple of years as I had begun self harming. This had been picked up by my head of year at school but nothing had been followed up and I had no support. My parents were not aware of any issues and would remain unaware for a further 5 years.

My first suicide attempt came about as a result of many different things that were happening at the time as well as my past. Everything was overwhelming and suicide felt like my only way out. The final straw came when someone I was at school with told me “why don’t you just kill yourself?”. It cemented my decision.

I was home alone when I tried to end my life. I felt isolated from everyone in my life and I couldn’t see a way of coping. I didn’t know that I was ill. Mental illness was nothing I had heard about before. It was definitely something that wasn’t talked about at school or at home. Also the safeguarding of children surrounding mental illness didn’t seem to be in place as at school when they had become aware of my difficulties with self harm nothing was reported. Could this of stopped my suicide attempt? Maybe.

Since my first attempt to take my own life, I have attempted to end my life many more times, but this first time stays with me more than others. It felt like the start of something that still plaques me until this day. On the anniversary of this day I have made further attempts to end my life. I have felt the dread around this date. It hits me every year. The consequences of my first attempt are far reaching.

If you are feeling suicidal then I know it is difficult to ask for help and I know it is not always forthcoming, even when you ask for it. But things have changed since my first attempt. There is more awareness and acceptance of mental health and mental illness. It is more acceptable to ask for help and discuss when you’re having problems. It’s not perfect but please know that you do not need to suffer alone. The Samaritans are available at all hours, every day in the UK and Ireland. If you are from another country then please look at the crisis contacts in the drop down menu at the top.

If you are concerned about someone who you think is suicidal please reach out to them. Let them know you are there and will support them. Also don’t be afraid to ask if they are suicidal. Asking the question will not put the idea in there head but may save a life.

Time To Talk Day 2019

It’s that time of year again. Yes, today, 7th February 2019, is Time to Talk day. I must admit that I have struggled to think of what to write about for this year’s Time to Talk day so where this blog post is going I have no idea. And that is OK.

Sometimes we have difficult conversations and we don’t know how the other person is going to react to what we say. This makes us hesitant to talk about the difficult things. That’s why Time to Talk day is important. It’s an ice breaker. It helps us discuss what isn’t always an easy topic; mental health.

I still struggle to talk about my mental health. I’m hesitant to say I’m struggling to those important people in my life. In fact they are sometimes the last to know what I’ve been going through. Yet I can blog about it to lots of people I barely know.

So why is it so difficult to talk to the ones we love the most? I think it has to do with how they will react. This is something out of our control and we don’t know if they will be upset, angry or any other emotion. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health still we are on edge as to whether we will face it from those we love the most. And we know that we could end up feeling worse if they don’t react how we hope they will.

So this year I think I might just share a few pointers for those who are listening to someone share about their mental illness. I don’t know if it will be helpful but I’ll give it a go.

1. Just listen: Sometimes it is simply having someone to listen without judging or making suggestions that means the most to us. If we ask for help then yes by all means try and help but we don’t always want that.

2. Be calm: It can be hard to do but staying calm will allow us to open up more as we see you are not reacting. Going straight into panic mode can make us feel guilty for talking and stop us opening up when we really need to.

3. Find an outlet: You are as important as the person with the mental illness who is talking to you. Therefore make sure you have support too. It will make you stronger for the person who is confiding in you.

4. Don’t guilt trip us: Telling us that we are making you feel bad or causing you stress will just make us stop talking. It will play into the negative thoughts we have and make us regret opening up and may even stop us from opening up to others.

5. Don’t shut the conversation down: If you say you don’t want to hear this then you can make us feel like we shouldn’t talk. If you’re finding it difficult suggest alternatives. Make sure that they know it’s OK to talk.

So those are a few tips to help you support someone who may start a conversation about mental health. Hopefully they might be useful. If you have any more ideas feel free to share in the comments or via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Language Matters

The language we use surrounding mental health and mental illness matters a lot. It can fuel stigma if used incorrectly. It can make people think differently about the subject being talked about. It can minimise the seriousness of this topic. So below I thought I’d discuss some of the common terms that get misused or that create stigma.

1. “Committed suicide”

The term “committed suicide” comes from when suicide was against the law. This is no longer the case and hasn’t been for several decades. Using this term can make it sound like someone is criminal for taking their own life, instead it is better to use the term “died by suicide”.

2. “You’re so OCD” and other OCD misuses.

This is so wrong. It minimises the suffering of people who have to deal with this complex illness. Using OCD as a way to discuss how neat and tidy you are is undermining the seriousness of the intrusive thoughts that people who suffer with OCD get if they don’t carry out their compulsions. So before using OCD as an adjective remember how serious it really is.

3. “Psycho”

The term “psycho” brings up all sorts of awful thoughts and images, but using it to describe someone who has a mental illness doesn’t help with the stigma surrounding mental illness. It makes people wary of people with a mental illness and makes them think they are going to be attacked or hurt by us. The truth is that people with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence than the perpetrator.

4. “Doing this would be an act of self harm”

This is a phrase I have heard used by many MPs and I dislike it intently. It feels like they are dismissing the distress someone has to be in for them to hurt themselves. It is used as a cheap point scoring exercise. The seriousness of self harm is being overlooked.

So that is just a few of the terms that I feel people need to think mre carefully about using. If you can think of anymore feel free to share using the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

#TimetoTalk Day 2018

Today, 1st February 2018, is Time to Change’s Time to Talk day. The aim is to get more people talking about mental health and to help break down the stigma surrounding it. This is important as it helps people who are struggling with their mental health see that it is OK to talk about it and ask for help when they need it. Therefore I thought for this years Time to Talk day I would share some ways to use the internet and/or social media to start a conversation about mental health.

1. Share a post on Twitter or Facebook – This is quite a small act but can have a big impact. If you feel comfortable then why not share some information about mental health (this can be found on Time to Change’s Facebook or Twitter) to help break down the myths surrounding mental health and mental illness. Or, if you feel able to, share a personal story using #TimetoTalk. Last year I shared a small part of my personal struggles on my private Facebook profile and was surprised at the positive responses I received. Of course only do this if you feel comfortable sharing and remember you don’t have to share anything you don’t want to.

2. Write a blog post – Whether you have a blog already or you normally just read them, why not think about writing a blog post about either your personal experiences of mental health or just mental health in general. Adding your story and viewpoint helps people to see that it is OK to talk about mental health. You never know who you might help.

3. Film a vlog – If you’re feeling particularly brave maybe film a video blog (vlog) to share your experiences of mental health or information about mental health. This can be a really engaging way of passing on information. If you’re looking for inspiration check out Miss Anxiety or Jonny Benjamin on YouTube.

4. Send an email to a friend – If you don’t want to share with a large audience that is totally OK and there are still ways you can have a conversation about mental health. Why not check in with a friend or two to see how they are doing? This way you are still showing it is OK to talk about mental health and how you are feeling.

Hopefully somewhere there, there is something you can do to have a conversation about mental health. I understand that for so many people there are barriers to talking about mental health but Time to Talk day is about breaking down those barriers and reminding everyone that we all have mental health, good or bad. For more information check out Time to Change’s website.