Monday, 6 April 2015

Why Do we Struggle to Humanise Mental Illness?

Please take the time to read this article and ask how often do we ask about 'them' and 'their' experiences and don't consider that we are all the same under the skin. I am no less human because of my mental health struggles than I am when I have the 'flu or have a broken bone.

Why does my struggle with depression or Personality Disorder warrant less understanding than when I have a bout of the common cold. I get so much sympathy and compassion when I am snuffling, and no one tells me 'You know what you need to do....?'. No, when I am physically ill people consider me as one of 'them' - they will tell me 'this, or that helped me' or they ask me about my symptoms AND they listen to my response with understanding. When anyone dares to talk to me about my mental health, there is often silence when I am honest, followed by a minimisation such as 'Yes I get down sometimes too', or 'You should just shake it off and get out and about.'

The minute our differences start to dehumanise us is the moment when we are given permission to abuse others, just for being 'different' and as history tells us, that is the root of so many atrocities. Tackling stigma of all kinds is so much more than protecting special interest groups, simply because we consider 'them' weak, it is to acknowledge we have a shared humanity. If we are able to recognise our shared humanity then maybe societal scourges such as child abuse, elder abuse, attacks on the disabled and every religiously or ideologically motivated conflict will begin to be eradicated.