There has been a lot of good work done to get mental health on an equal footing with physical health – for example those who have are mentally ill can now claim benefits and are covered under the Equality Act. However, there is work that the general public can do without the need of the likes of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. Today I present three ways that everyone can help achieving equality in mental health – through talking about it, through prayer (or thinking about those in distress) and through funding research.
Firstly – by talking about it. And by this I don’t mean having a heart-to-heart about your problems – although just talking about your difficulties to someone else is obviously very important. I mean just normalising talking about mental health. I’m an experienced mental healthite so I was happy to ‘come out’ but if it’s your first time you just hide under a bush in embarrassment because you feel that no-one else could possibly understand (It’s easier to come out as gay). And that’s a bit silly because one in four people have a mental health problem every year. So you know lots of people with a mental health problem – they just haven’t told you about it. In the 22nd century I pray it will be normal for a colleague who you don’t know that well to say ‘How are you?’ and you will feel quite safe to reply ‘I went to the GP yesterday because I was a depressed and he gave me some tablets’. ‘I am sorry,’ your colleague will reply. ‘I was depressed last year – I started exercising and it really helped. I’ll be thinking of you. Get well.’
Which brings me very nicely onto the second piece of work that the public can do – pray/ think about/ send good wishes to people with mental health difficulties in the same way that you would people with physical symptoms. As I have tried to describe mental health difficulties can reduce the quality of a person’s life just as much as physical ones – and you can also die or be physically harmed by them. If a friend has a serious physical illness you might say ‘I’ll be thinking of you’ or ‘I’ll pray for you’. Why can’t the same wishes be sent to someone with a mental health difficulty? On online support groups for depression and epilepsy often a member will write a message telling the group of their distress and there is a beautiful tendency of other complete strangers to say that they are thinking or praying for them. And thus we would know if there was equality in mental health if it became common place for those nearer to home sent these type of wishes to their loved ones in distress.
And lastly – donating money to mental health research charities would do a lot to get mental health on an footing with physical health. I have now been diagnosed with a dissociative disorder (which I will talk about next). This is after nearly twenty years of being in the mental health system and having been diagnosed with all sorts of weird and wonderful things before. And I know that I am not alone with misdiagnosis – People can come into a psychiatrist’s office with generalised anxiety disorder and go out with bipolar or come in with depression and go out with social phobia. It takes a long time to achieve the correct diagnosis and without the correct diagnosis the illness is difficult to treat. Research into achieving the correct diagnosis is one of three research priorities put forward by the charity https://www.mqmentalhealth.org. The second one is understanding the effectiveness of therapies for each condition – because there is little point in correct diagnosis if there is not effective treatment. Finally in the knowledge that 75%of mental health conditions start before the age of 18 there needs to be more understanding of what makes children ‘at risk’. The charity also state that at the moment mental health only receives 5.8% of the health research spend (in the UK). And although there are charities like MQ for every £1 spent by government on mental health research the general public donates 0.3p. The equivalent for cancer is £2.75. Therefore, a sign of equality for mental and physical health would be that charities like MQ research became ones that the general public were aware of and gave to generously.
In other news
I went to my expert neuropsychiatrist and he said something like – ‘ I am diagnosing you with a dissociative disorder. You are distant from the world. Although you have epilepsy what you are experiencing are not epileptic seizures. You are having pseudo-epileptic seizures. You are depressed. You have had some trauma in your life that needs to be unearthed. Take some anti-depressants, exercise, eat well, plan to do something exciting and come back in three months’ time when you have figured out what’s wrong with you. I will put you on a waiting list to see a therapist in six to nine months’ time’. As I said – I believe that the diagnosis is correct – I am dissociative. It’s just I don’t believe the cause. I believe that my illness is neurological and not psychological, as he suggested. So I am still on my search down the crumbling dirty track road, looking for my pot of gold. However, as I have said, diagnosis is key, and now that I have been correctly diagnosed I have been recommended the name of an expert in dissociative disorders and I am trying to track him down.