I have signed the Time to Change pledge to end the stigma attached to mental illness. I encourage you to join this campaign in the UK, or similar campaigns where you live. Like many of you, I have been close to a number of people who have struggled with poor mental health. I became my late father’s carer in the last years of his life. It was only then that I recognised how we had colluded as a family in not knowing about his mental state for years. He was relatively well supported; but this did not prevent his early death as a result of the physical consequences of his struggle with life.
Research reveals that nine out of ten people in Britain who live with some form of mental illness are stigmatised. As if the illness were not enough to cope with, they are penalised in the workplace and over welfare benefits. They are shunned and laughed at. Worse still, moral blame is still applied to those living with persistent mental illness. We are frightened of it because it is so close to us and any one of us call fall prone to it in some form. It is also scary that, while there can be periods of recovery in any illness, the condition itself may well be chronic and incurable.
Understandably, we all dread that prospect for ourselves or for our loved ones; but it does not follow that we should blame sufferers for reminding us of their need. The media do not help. Of course, it is a tragedy if a psychotic person becomes dangerous and does serious harm to another person. The way that this is often reported suggests that people with mental health needs are likely to be dangerous. The sad truth is that most of those who suffer psychosis, or clinical depression or severe bi-polar illness are only likely to be a danger to themselves as they feel they can no longer endure the isolation and pain.