Over the past two months I have been carrying out interviews with members of staff and service users from two different charities for a featured charity segment on a radio show I co-host. On our show Daves of the Week on http://www.surreyhillsradio.co.uk/ we look at a charity for six weeks and promote their work and fund raising initiatives amongst other aspects of what they do. We have featured Combat Stress and are now with Mary Francis Trust. Aside from doing the interviews for the show, I have also found out a lot, and been made to think more about mental health as a concept. There has been too much to cover in one post, so I will explore different aspects in future posts, as well as new aspects when they come up.
One concept I found most interesting was from an interview with Patrick Volter CEO of Mary Francis Trust. In this he compared how people view their physical health as opposed to their mental health. Patrick spoke about how if someone has an issue with their physical health, they would not think twice about seeing their doctor. On the other hand, it seems people are less likely to take as much care over their mental health and see a doctor, for anxiety as an example. I can speak from personal experience of this being true. I resisted the urge to see a doctor about my depression for the longest time. I simply did not see it as connected to my physical health. This is why I think this is a good concept to be aware of. Emotional health needs as much care as physical health.
I wonder why people do this? What is it about feeling emotionally unwell that does not feel the same to people as feeling physically unwell? I think part of it is the way mental health is portrayed or thought of by the general public. Another part is how people with mental health issues think of themselves and what they think they deserve or need to help them cope. I remember thinking that I didn’t deserve any help as I was only feeling down, so I was as much as fault for not getting help as anything else. I don’t recall if I felt that I shouldn’t get help as being depressed was frowned upon by society, so I will not blame that as a reason for myself, but I do think it is a factor for others in not getting help when they need it.
Something I have learnt is that there seems to be an abundance of services to help people with varying degrees of mental health. Talking to the Mary Francis Trust, I have found that the range of services they offer is amazing. From minor to major mental health issues, there is something to help people in numerous ways. The same can be said for services like Samaritans; they are there 24/7 for people to simply talk to, but not everyone knows they are there. Which is why I will mention a request that came from an interview. If you are at a doctors or at the hospital and you know about services that might help people, let the doctors or nurses know because they simply might not have heard of the service before. Or if you know someone that might benefit from a service, then let them know. This is a very simple way to raise awareness and could potentially be of use to someone further down the line.
One of the things I find hardest to deal with when doing the interviews or talking about it on the show is the thought of people suffering in silence or for want of knowing about a service that could help them breaks my heart. I do applaud the drives in social care to confront and alleviate the isolation that people can feel when they have a mental health issue. To show them that support for them is available if they need it is a wonderful. I only hope more people find out about them and access them to make their lives better.
Another aspect I found out about was the struggle charities can have with the media trying to report aspects of their work in a sensationalist fashion. An example would be the reporting of a soldier with PTSD lashing out violently in public. The actual facts do not seem to matter as much as the juiciness of the story, which I find both sad and aggravating. Not only do charities have to try and raise awareness of what they do and the people they do it for, they also have to fight against a media that cares not for the details and more on the impact the headlines have.
Another example is the front page reporting of the German pilot who crashed an airplane into the mountain. Naturally, I have nothing but sympathy for the families and friends involved in this tragic story. It did bother and make me angry that the some paper’s front page headlines ran with ‘Madman in the Cockpit’ style reporting. Or I should say ‘reported’ depression as it is not clear if this was what he was actually suffering from or the reason he did what he did.
I think what makes me angriest is the concept that seems to come across of ‘He was depressed so he flew his plane into a mountain. This makes sense.’ It really doesn’t make sense. Did anyone think about this logic before they said it? Or what is worse, what if people thought about it and knew that it did not make sense and published it because it was inflammatory and likely to cause a stir. How does this widespread speculation help anyone, let alone someone who has any form of mental health related issues to see their conditions being portrayed in this way? Irresponsible does not even come close.
I think that mental health awareness is getting better, then I see the headlines from yesterday and I am reminded that there is a long way to go. Still, I have to hope in the long term it will become something that is understood more clearly, services to help people are more widely known and that people with mental health issues know that there are things that can help them. Until then, I will do what I can in my small way to help that come about.
If you have any thoughts or comments, I would love to hear them.
Take care buddies,