I’m

I hide behind a wall I’ve built, it protects me from the outside world, I can keep secrets in. I can remain protected and defensive , the inner battles I face, I fight alone. Occasionally I let people in, only the surface layer, see how they react. I’m careful how I behave, show emotion and present in-front of everyone. I wear a fake smile, pretend to laugh and appear stress free. I’ve become good at acting, acting how others want me to be. So I don’t make them feel uncomfortable around me. I’m protected from judgment, people talking about me and those sympathetic looks. If only somebody will look closely at my eyes. They will see pain, anguish, a person struggling, unable to cope, a person alone and upset. I want to reach out, I want to share but I’m paralysed by my own battles.

Look beyond the obvious, as nothing is always what it seems.

No words

A hug says more than words ever can. It lets the other person know you care, you are there for them and they aren’t alone. Being embraced by another when you feel down, is a gentle reminder that there is always someone with you.

For many whom may not have grown up with a good system and strong relationships, may find a hug the embrace they needed.

When someone you know looks upset, see if they are ok and give them a hug, you may be the only person that day who has.

Let’s help

Always be the helping hand for others even if no one holds their hand for you. We help others who intern will go into help more people. We start the cycle but we can also end the cycle. If we think “no one is helping me so why should I help them”, we begin down a dark lonely path. We become bitter towards others and spiteful in our actions. Let’s choose empathy and kindness. Be thankful that we aren’t in similar situations but have the strength and capability to guide others through theirs. Helping others is a selfless act and the helper shouldn’t expect praise, recognition or require validation for the help they have given. Once an individual seeks praise or recognition, the act of helping becomes a selfish act to feed your own ego.

I like many others around the world help others before I help myself. I make time even if I have none for someone who needs my time. I talk to someone who needs distraction. I listen to someone who needs to vent. I be there for someone even if I’m physically exhausted or emotionally drained. I find the inner strength so others feel supported. Let’s all make this our motto and spread the word.

#supportyourfriends #supporteachother❤️ #offerahelpinghand #beselfless

Part 2 of the physical vs. mental health debate

The invisible illness

For as long as humans have existed, they have lived by the notion ‘if I can’t see it, then it’s not real’. This has been applied to the unknown varying from; aliens, ghosts, spiritual beings etc. It has also been used to refer to mental illness, as often you aren’t able to identify any visible symptoms, abnormalities in brain function or chemical imbalances. People assume that the illness does not exist. In comparison, any physical illness can be explained by evidence found in objective testing such as; blood test, EEG/ECG, MRI, CAT scan, blood pressure monitor, blood sugar monitor etc. These are all signs that can be equated and explain a physical illness. But something which is not visible to many means that it does not exist and is made up. 

Most of societies believe mental illness is ‘made up’, the person is ‘exaggerating or a drama queen’, and it’s ‘all in their head’. But this is a misconception and misjudgement of an illness. What we can’t see doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean you write it off. Most mental illnesses are subjective in nature, only the individual is bale to express the symptoms of the illness, these can vary from; hearing voices, hallucinations or emotion (sadness, anger, mania etc.). These symptoms may not be easily identifiable to others and have to be expressed by the individual.

So the question is how do we know these symptoms are real?

There are many tell-tale signs which can prove these subjective symptoms are symptoms of a mental illness.

For example, hearing voices, this is something which can’t be proven or disproven. The individual will often appear distracted, appears to be listening to unseen stimuli and responding verbally and non-verbally to the unseen stimuli. In addition, they may become manic, angry or distressed spontaneously, often the result of the voices. Their actions may be impulsive and sporadic in nature. They may not make eye contact, illogical thought processes and pressured speech. This is not an exhaustive list, but a brief over view of some common signs.

If properly observed and assessed, than this shows the individual hears voices. However, the assessment is individualistic to the person conducting the assessment, but does not make it any less valid.

Unlike physical illnesses which use scientific tools that measure in real time the illness and computes evidence that cannot be refuted. Mental illnesses are based upon psychometric testing, diagnostic guides and subjective assessments of the individual. So both physical and mental illness use differing diagnostic methods, but both are scientifically proven by research and valid in nature.

Many individuals, whom believe in the bio-medical model to health, don’t view the study and assessment of mental illness scientific. Therefore, they are more likely to dismiss symptoms or miss- interprets them, based on their perception. This can lead to patients being untreated or mis-diagnosed. This practice is becoming uncommon, in today’s society but can occur.

Individuals studying medicine, GPs and other healthcare professionals, are now being trained in mental illness and psychology, so they are able to spot signs early and assess more effectively. This shows a positive step forward, as the medical model is being challenged and used in conjunction with psychological models for assessment.

Let’s not be mistaken, physical illness can lead to mental illness, and vice versa. This is very common and so the two are being treated together. I have experience in working in health psychology, which combines both physical and mental health. I used to work in oncology and engage in patients whom were at varying stages of their oncology journey, and suffered from some psychological distress due to the illness and/or treatment. Their mental states often would steer their oncology treatment and vice versa. Patients may become depressed and have fleeting thoughts to self-harm, so would stop their current treatment or delay it. Others may have increased anxiety surrounding treatment and would look to homeopathy medications such as cannabis oil, to avoid having more treatment. Working in health psychology gave me great insight into how psychology and the medical community were integrating in their approach to care.

The perception of illness varies greatly from person to person. One individual may be very empathic and caring, whereas another may engage in tough love. This variation is based on our perceptions and experiences in life. Very little can completely change our perception, as we always find a natural way to revert back to it. In terms of physical health our perception is very accepting, a sense of urgency, in terms of receiving treatment and ensuring the care needed is received. This also translates to mental health, but there is a difference.

For example, if there is an individual lying on the floor, screaming and shouting they are in pain and unable to move, holding their leg. Without any judgment, question or delay we ensure they are ok and call the paramedics as we can see they are hurt. This is a very common and natural response.

Now lets take the same scenario as above, with the individual on the floor, in apparent pain and unable to move, but you have knowledge they suffer with a mental illness. Does your response change? Interestingly, many will have the same response as depicted above. But there are a group of people, whom will delay calling the paramedics, they will assess, question, judge and doubt the validity of the pain. Questions will be raised and their mental health history will be looked into, so see if they have exhibited this behaviour before. Then a judgment will be made whether to send them to A&E or not. But is this delay in care reasonable?

Sit back and compare both situations. They are the same situation with only one difference between them But as you can see, one added piece of information can change your perception.

This is not an uncommon occurrence. Having the knowledge that an individual has a mental illness, throws doubt into a person’s mind. To the extent their care and treatment is under question. So why do we this?

On one side, the questioning and doubt can be justified as you want to ensure they aren’t wasting NHS resources or don’t want to re-enforce the behaviour. On the other hand though, its not so logical. The reasoning for questioning may be based on a biased perception, lack of knowledge, or opinion. This can cloud judgement and can lead to prejudice behaviour.

Physical health is an area we all feel we know enough about to make judgement calls and feel they justified, by our knowledge base. But can this be the case in the above scenario. If someone is in pain and state they are unable to move, should they be taken to A&E straight away?  Is this really the case? If you answered Yes than what is your justification based on the information given.  As much as there is judgment and bias towards mental health care, this also is present in physical health care.

One important message to understand is we can never be completely objective, but we have to mindful of our perceptions, bias and judgments. As discussed, physical and mental health are deemed separate and in some respects they are different. But as times change, our knowledge grows and we understand the two are one of the same and can be treated equally.

Part 1 of the Physical vs Mental Health illness debate.

What is this cartoon saying? As absurd as it may seem it highlights a very important message about how mental illness is stigmatised and not an equal to psychical health. The truth of course when someone is physically ill there is different treatment route you take to help remedy the illness. But when confronted by mental health, why does the treatment route differ vastly from physical illness. With a physical illness it is treated quickly and have received the care they need in A&E for example, discussing openly about their illness. In comparison, a mental illness has delayed treatment ( often cases of no treatment at all), but no one is willing to discuss the illness, openly.

There still remains a huge divide between having a mental illness and physical illness. It is seen that a physical illness is more acceptable and recognisable in society, socially accepted. On the other hand, a mental illness is kept quiet, only whispered about and not mentioned in public. When others know someone is mentally ill, they act differently around them whispering and staring, often moving away suddenly. The sufferer at this point will feel shame and outcast by society. They aren’t seen the same as someone who has a broken leg.

In society today, physical illness is openly discussed, its often an easy subject to talk about and cope with ( not in all circumstances). On the other hand, mental illness people hide in the shadows and whisper about the illness, in fear/shame from the societal judgment and stigma. 

Its a well known fact that physical health conditions have a deep rooted scientific basis in society and medicine is widely researched and studied. This means generationally throughout humanity, knowledge of the human body, medicine and physical health conditions are passed on and explored deeper. We study biology at school, we are told of the vast amount of clinical and scientific career routes. It is ingrained from when we are young,  to understand physical illness, which medications are available for us when we have a headache for example. Whether we choose to or not, when it comes to the human body we have knowledge and understanding of physical conditions and treatments. But the part of the body which is a mystery still remains the human brain. Throughout our early years of learning, we are told much about the workings of the brain, what happens when something goes wrong and what conditions come of this. Understanding the brain is seen as a option in higher education and so is the study of mental health disorders.

The first time I learnt, researched and studied the human brain was in college, as I picked Psychology as one of my a levels. Therefore for the most part of my life, I never knew about mental illnesses, how they occur, the effects and treatment.  But at the same point, I knew about how the rest of the human body works, how the organs work and what occurs if something goes wrong. Why is this?? Answer: its how society is structured. 

Physical illnesses are visibly treatable and has visible symptoms, whereas a mental health illness is not visible and the symptoms are not often obvious. 

I’ve been apart of many conversations, especially amongst my family, where having high blood pressure, diabetes or a heart condition etc are openly discussed, regularly, without much difficulty or shame. However, I’ve never heard/been apart of any conversations about depression, anxiety etc, this shows there is an element of shame. Each community has there own beliefs and boundaries on many topics, but what we can see is for the majority of them mental health is very much a taboo. Communities such as the south Asian, afro-Caribbean are two communities which have the lowest engagement with mental health services. In addition, males find it more difficult to express their emotions than females, and also less likely to engage in mental health services.

These are just examples of how our society is innately structured and throughout every generation, we abide by the unspoken laws and boundaries within them. Our education systems are built around this, being biased and exclusive on which information is taught. Yes we cant help that this is how we’ve been brought up, but recognising it now, we can start to change this so the next generation learn from a young age about mental illness.

This change has begun, as schools ae now teaching children to talk about their emotions, they have mindfulness classes/sessions, and school subjects now include learning about the brain and mental illness. Workplaces are incorporating mindfulness sessions, recognising that someone may not go into work because they are having a bad day due to anxiety or depression etc. More and more celebrities are highlighting mental health and campaigning to raise awareness. All these positive steps forward are occurring, and a shift happening in society to being more inclusive and accepting of mental illness.

But why do sufferer’s still feel shame, unable to talk about their illness and carry the burden on their own?

Harsh answer is: there is a pattern in society for ‘condition of the month’. Currently suicide is gaining a lot of media attention, through celebrities. But what about Joe Bloggs whom has suffered with depression for years, made several attempts to end his life and is living isolated from the community. Does he not get media attention? This is the real side of the illness, the ugly truth. Its not all straight forward as made out in the media. Its endless suffering and fighting a battle daily in hopes of not loosing yourself to the illness.  Every second someone commits suicide somewhere around the world, and even at that massive extent of human life loss,  it isn’t highlighted until its suicide prevention day, mental health awareness month or a celebrity unfortunately commits suicide. In mainstream news, as much as we get up-dates in medical research, we should also receive up-dates and news alerts in psychological/psychiatric research. This will continuously expose the general public to mental health and create an equal mindset between physical and mental illness.

Physical illness is seen as a collective condition, where the individuals feel comfortable discussing the illness, treatment and the effect upon them, openly.  We find mental health is more an independent condition as the sufferer feels isolated not part of a collective. They fail to realise the person next to them or opposite them also is suffering in the same way they are.  Society easily turns a blind eye to things they don’t see, feel or have enough knowledge upon.

Mental health conditions hide in the shadows of society, they are always there and is increasing in size. Every so often they come out the shadows to make a brief appearance than they are returned back to the shadows. Society is only at the young early stages of accepting mental health conditions and it will be a long time before any issue related to the brain will sit confidently alongside physical health conditions.

Strength

When they see you as a strong person, they think that you do not need anything or anyone, you can bear everything and will overcome whatever happens. That you do not mind not being listened to, cared for or pampered.

A strong person is not asked if they are tired, suffering or falling, if they have anxiety or fear. The important thing is that they are always there: a lighthouse in the fog or a rock in the middle of the sea.

If they lose control, they become weak. If they lose their temper, they become hysterical. When the strong person disappears a minute, it is immediately noticeable, but when they are there, their presence is usual. But the strength that is needed every day, to be that kind of person, does not matter to anyone.

Honour , recognize, respect and thank the strong people in your life, because they also need to be reminded, loved and feel that they can rest.