Here are some of the common misconceptions of mental health I've heard over the years (and calmly kept schtum).
"Depression isn't a mental illness, everyone gets depressed"
Being depressed because you've just been dumped whilst listening to back to back Smiths albums and Facebook updates suggest all your friends are out having fun without you, is not necessarily clinical depression. However if you can't eat or get out of bed for days or weeks trapped underneath an invisible heavy glue and suicide is all you have to look forward to then your depression is indeed in the serious risk scale.
"We're dangerous criminals and serial killers"
Worldwide serial killers like Ted Bundy and The Camden Ripper amongst many others were diagnosed mentally ill. But what about all the rest? Prisons are much bigger than asylums. In our previous generation, we kids were kept away from mad aunts and nutty neighbours, in case we were kidnapped, fed people pie or drawn on, but a whopping one in four of us will suffer from mental health at some point, which means, if we are dangerous murderers, then someone in your office, on your bus, or even in your house is capable of killing you so do be careful what you say.
"We talk to ourselves or imaginary people"
It's more that likely we're talking on our hands free. Someone who went in a coma ten years ago and just woke up, would think we'll all, especially city boys, gone mad. But reality is we with mental health make hands free phone calls too. In fact we can even change batteries too. Look at some of the Brightest Sparks - Einstein, John Nash, Doc from Back To The Future (although it's still unsure as to whether it's a fictional story or not) - are/were all clinically mad.
"We're benefit scroungers"
Many people with mental health conditions rely on benefits because it is often near impossible to either get or maintain full time employment.
If you have a physical disability, companies build ramps, if you have a mental disability, what can they build us for our brain?
So we're in a sticky one. If we "tick the box if you have a mental disability" we're up against someone who hasn't who are more likely to get the job, or we don't tick the box, get unwell, we get instantly dismissed for lying on our form.
However, for those that think people on mental health benefits are swanning around in designer gear drinking champagne in the Ivy, or even drinking White Lightening whilst watching Loose Women, do keep up the fantasies because they're much better than the reality.
"We wander the streets"
It's more that likely that we're going to the shops. We eat, read the paper, and empty our bins too. I know channel Four documentaries portray this image of us hoarding rubbish to the point we have to eat and sleep in our bathrooms but occasionally we need to wander to the shops for tea bags and cat food like everyone else... who has cats obviously. Besides, it could just be that the BMW we bought with our benefits is in the garage.
"Schizophrenia means split personality"
So then every female suffering PMT is a Schizophrenic - one minute throwing the boyfriends Xbox games out of the window because he cannot ****ing tidy up after himself, to crying into tinned macaroni because he's not paying her attention - he's busy tidying up - Schizophrenia is a severe condition involving acute paranoia, delusions and hallucinations requiring medication to help maintain a "normal" life whilst split personality is the slang definition of conflicting personalities in the same person, like Jekyll and Hyde, or just getting drunk.
"Bipolar means ups and downs"
Many people have asked me if I think they're bipolar because they have a really good day followed by a really bad one. On asking for a bit of history, many of them were suffering hangovers from fun packed weekends, every weekend. The upside of bipolar doesn't mean really happy or over excited it means manic, out of control, delusive and dangerous. I've known patients on the ward run a business from their bum, set up tents for children they don't have and park their trains in Tesco's car park (or so they think) And the low side, almost one on four people with bipolar take their own lives, most of them have tried.
So, ups and downs is about being human, changes in pace, sobering up, having fluctuating days and we don't need lithium for that, we need a good diet, a sensible work/play routine, a decent nights sleep, and light objects to throw at people we love every now and then..
You can read more at http://www.n16mag.com/latest-issue.html (p45)
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