In recent years the discussion around mental health has hit the mainstream. I call it the Conversation. The Conversation is dominated by positivity and the memeification of a battle won. It isn’t a bad thing that we are all talking more about mental health; it would be silly to argue otherwise. But this does not mean it is not infuriating to come home from a secure hospital, suicidal, to a bunch of celebrity awareness-raising selfies and thousands of people saying that all you need to do is ask for help – when you’ve been asking for help and not getting it. There is a poster in my local pharmacy that exclaims, “Mental health can be complex – getting help doesn’t have to be!” Each time I see it, I want to scream.
The Conversation tends to focus on depression and anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is less comfortable with the mental illnesses deemed more unpalatable – people who act erratically, hallucinate, have violent episodes or interpersonal instability. I don’t want to pretend that this stigma is merely a hurdle to be overcome. Stigma exists from a place of real fear, and a lack of understanding of the behavioural changes that can accompany mental illness. Episodes of illness can be frightening, frustrating, tiring and annoying for both the unwell individual and those around them.
The key isn’t to deny this, but to educate. Instagram slogans do not make it clear what depersonalisation is, for instance, and that it won’t be solved by a picture of someone walking on a beach. It’s good that Lynx deodorant teamed up with the male mental health Campaign Against Living Miserably, but is “Find Your Magic” not the most patronising slogan of all time?
– The Guardian