Dear Dirty America


Mental Health & Social Stigma

Mental Health & Social Stigma
November 12
09:10 2016

Perthshire, Scotland

I write this, not as someone with mental health issues, but as someone who has experience of having been close to people who have had and are still dealing with depression and other associated issues.

Even in this, the early part of the 21st century, there are still major problems with people’s attitudes towards anyone who might show signs of being “not like them!”

credit: Vassil

credit: Vassil

Depression, bipolarity, autism, etcetera, are still viewed with suspicion and hostility by people who don’t know any better, and also by many people who should know better.

Some doctors are still woefully ignorant of the signs of depressive illness. Police officers in general are some of the worst offenders when it comes to dealing with mental health problems, unless they have had direct experience.

There is little or no education of mental health problems for the police forces. And these are often the people who have first contact with sufferers. I know this because of personal experiences of how the police interact with the people who have mental health issues and the public in general.

Heavy handed “arrest first” tactics, only cause more fear and distress, whereas a few calm words with someone who is distressed, can make life easier for all. If someone is acting “out of character”, it’s not always alcohol or drugs which are the cause.

I have been advocating education in this area for years, and still nothing is done. If there has been a tragedy, we always hear, “lessons have been learned” from all branches of authority, but never is anything achieved!

The medical profession is also culpable for its lack of proper training in this area. I’ve been in doctors’ surgeries and witnessed the sheer “I know best” attitude, when it is obvious something has gone spectacularly wrong in someone’s life.

So much time is wasted before common sense prevails and some kind of treatment is begun. I’ve noticed how doctors of both sexes take men seriously at a first appointment, where a woman has to keep going back time and time again, in order to get help. This is not only confined to mental health, this is across the whole medical spectrum. It’s something which I have complained about for decades

Many people are misdiagnosed, and get inappropriate care or none at all. For an adult to get a diagnosis of autism, it can take years, and that’s usually after they have been through the criminal justice system. With autism comes depression, with many autism sufferers also being bipolar.

This mixture of issues causes tremendous anxiety along with OCD and a variety of phobias. Autistic meltdowns are unexpected and frightening to anyone who hasn’t had to deal with them. These can be triggered by something which looks very trivial to most people, but to an autistic person, devastating.

Routine is very important in most cases. If something is in a different place to where it always is, this can cause a meltdown. If someone goes somewhere on the same day, at the same time, to do the same thing, but that thing has been changed, an autistism sufferer will not be able to cope with the change, and the meltdown ensues. This is usually short lived, with the person not really remembering what has happened.

Because the autism spectrum is wide, adults and children can have a vast number of symptoms and issues.

Depression is probably one of the most hidden illnesses worldwide. Many people do not seek help because of the social stigma attached to the word depression. Often by the time they finally go to get help, it has become very difficult to treat effectively.

There are some very good drugs which help a person through the worst, but they aren’t suitable for everyone. If you are offered medication by a doctor, take it regularly and if it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to ask for something different.

Depression is a silent and destructive illness, not visible to the public, but destroying life from the inside. Depression is darkness and hopelessness, without any obvious way out. Oh, the person may be outwardly happy and healthy, smiling their way through life. But when the front door closes, they are in dark despair.

How many times have we heard, “I spoke to him/her only yesterday and they were laughing and joking.” This is the problem. If the feelings of doom and despair are well hidden, even close family members will not see the effects. Then if the depressed person takes their own life, because they cannot see any other way of getting free, there is huge shock and total disbelief that this happened.

There is guilt because we feel we should have known something was wrong.

But if there are no signs and the person feels they can’t share their pain, there is nothing we could have done.
And sometimes even when we have known and talked to the person about their illness, there isn’t a guarantee that will prevent a suicide attempt or worse, a successful suicide.

All we can do is be there for the person. Offer love and support. Help them find suitable treatment. And understand that sometimes that won’t be enough.

Depression hits all parts of society. It doesn’t care if you are poor or wealthy, young or old, black or white. It hits indiscriminately and with devastating consequences.

Even when “cured” it’s still lurking in the background, waiting for the chance to creep back into your mind.

Anyone who has never had to deal with either depression itself or supporting a loved one, is very lucky and should thank their own deity for being spared the darkness.

Follow The Party of Common Sense on Twitter, at @tpocs


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Michael J Blair contributes political analysis to DDA, and he can be reached at: His Twitter handle is: @mmjblair

[header art work courtesy of Aurora Mazzoldi; Mary Magdalene crying statue courtesy of Vassil; both from Wikimedia Commons]


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