Fighting The Stigma

My previous post explains that I recently went on a trip to Africa, as part of the programme I have to visit London next month to deliver a speech on ‘something I’m passionate about’. That something is fighting the stigma that surrounds mental health and suicide.

Throughout my life I have found myself in extraordinary circumstances a number of times. Something that keeps finding it’s way back in, is the evidently huge problem of suicide in the UK (& worldwide). I’m 23, my first experience with suicide was losing a good friend and flatmate at the age of 20. In the time since then I have personally known of 3 individuals, the same age or younger who were led to believe they had no other option.

“Committing” suicide hints that they knowingly carried out an act to end their lives, people “commit” crimes, I believe it is completely disrespectful and wrong to put those suffering from serious mental illnesses in the same action bracket as those who can’t abide by the laws of the country. When your brain and your mind make up such an integral part of your body, it should be the opposite way round. Everyone should take more care and pay more attention to their mental wellbeing. You wouldn’t continue as normal with a fractured arm, or a twisted ankle, so why do the same if you’re suffering from a mental illness?

The phrase “seeing is believing” pretty much sums up the countries support for those suffering mental health issues, people find it hard to believe illnesses they can’t see themselves. And with the lifestyles we lead becoming busier and busier, it’s becoming easier to miss cues from your family/friends/loved ones who may be suffering in silence.

“To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.”
― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

Whilst I was away, I read a book that was called “Reasons to stay alive” by Matt Haig, fantastic book telling the story of his near suicide and how he controls his depression and anxiety. I read the book purely out of my interest in the field, and I read it wherever I wanted to – why shouldn’t I? There was one particular day when we’d had a day of lectures and I decided instead of going straight back to my room, I was going to read outside in the sunshine. I was there for around an hour, and 2 people came over to say how they were currently reading the same book but they feared judgement from reading it in public places. I honestly thought that was absolutely ridiculous, then I remembered that you can’t help how you’re made to feel. Do we really live in a society where people are afraid of the title of their book?

“When you are depressed you feel alone, and that no one is going through quite what you are going through. You are so scared of appearing in any way mad you internalise everything, and you are so scared that people will alienate you further you clam up and don’t speak about it, which is a shame, as speaking about it helps.”
― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

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