The Conversation about Mental Health
The Conversation About Mental Health
Written by Lucy who blogs at Mrs H's Favorite Things
Recently The Guardian published an opinion piece entitled “What we’re getting wrong in the conversation about mental health”. The article is written by Lucy Foulkes, an honorary lecturer of psychology in UCL and author of the book “Losing Our Minds: What Mental Illness Really Is - and What It Isn’t.”
In this opinion piece, Lucy Foulkes argues that with the creation of many Government and charity mental health campaigns that use the taglines such as “It’s OK to not be OK” and “every mind matters” the application of psychological terms to normal human distress has become commonplace. And as a result, those that are suicidal or suffer from a serious mental health problem may be falling through the gaps and not getting the treatment that they both need and deserve.
I found the following quotation particularly interesting:
“In the terrain of mental health, there is no objective border to cross that delineates the territory of disorder. On top of this, the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that appear temporarily as a natural response to hardship and stress – like when we’re heartbroken – exactly mimic those that, should they persist, are defining features of mental disorders. So blurry are these boundaries that some psychologists argue we shouldn’t use the terms “illness” or “disorder” at all, and should only view all of this as matters of degree.”
I personally found this article fascinating. I class myself as a mental health blogger. But I have no great experience of mental health other than living with chronic depression and anxiety for over 20 years. Often a post that I write will connect with a reader and they will associate with symptoms and feelings that I have expressed. In many ways, this is wonderful. The reader feels understood and accepted, they realise they are not alone and may go on to seek the help that they so desperately need. But on other occasions, I realise that this person may just be going through a hard time yet has self-diagnosed themselves with a psychological disorder. This becomes a greater issue as the stigma around mental health declines and more and more people share their stories of suffering with mental health problems.
Sadly, I don’t think there are any easy answers. I will continue to talk about living with a mental health problem and in particular parenting while suffering with chronic depression and anxiety because I want to stop others from struggling in silence. And if, by sharing my own story, I have encouraged one person to get the help that they desperately need, then I will know that talking about my own mental health problems is the right thing to do. It is then up to the mental health professionals to determine who is genuinely depressed or suffering with a mental health disorder and who is just going through the emotional rollercoaster of life.
“We need to gain confidence in talking about mental health and illness not as a neat dichotomy but a messy, nuanced spectrum. We all like simple categories and answers, but the sooner we recognise that mental health doesn’t play this game, the better. Remember those vast grey plains. The individuals who roam this space will still need care and support, and professional help might indeed be warranted – but the language of disorder might not be.”