Firstly, I should say that I think any media which sparks the debate on Mental Health is, in one way or another, a good thing. The BBC running a series on Mental Health is a good thing. The fact people want to challenge it, is also a good thing.
It also goes without saying that Stephen Fry continues to be awesome and loveable, and that the man has done a remarkable job raising awareness.
The thing that struck me from the offset of the recent BBC programme ‘The Not So Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive’: Stephen Fry On How Life Has Changed For People With Bipolar Disorder In 10 Years’ was that it did not present a balanced view of the different ways in which people understand and live with their experiences. While I don’t doubt the BBC had the best of intentions, the programme ultimately did little to challenge stigma, in my opinion.
Some of the misrepresentations of the programme are being addressed by an Open Letter by mental health specialists, academics and those who have lived it first hand.
While I have found medication to have been life changing I strongly believe that the many years I worked on self-help have enabled the meds to be so effective.
Another belief I have is that I live the life I choose. I spent many, many years being swallowed whole by my bipolar, no more.
This past year I have had big changes in my life, including a fair amount of stressful and exciting situations, which have both triggered symptoms of my so called illness. When faced with these challenges I have been left feeling low, exhausted, hyperactive, and agitated. The medication did not get me through these phases, what got me through and kept me grounded were all the self-help tools I have learnt over the years.
To anyone who thinks medication is a must or the answer, I would have to disagree. It takes hard, hard work and is a conscious effort to recognise your symptoms and to challenge them.
It is crucial that people receive care that meets their individual needs.
One size does not fit all. Medication may aid mood swings but it is not the sole solution. The methods which are my go-to remedies may not suit everyone, but they work for me.
Stigma around mental health is a long way off being overcome. You hear it in everyday references, jokes, news and TV shows. It needs to be confronted by those who live it, in whatever shape or form.
Like with anything in life, we do not know what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes. I don’t expect people to understand exactly what I have been through.
The world needs to be educated. The strikingly sad figures of young people impacted by mental health needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Governments need to recognise investment in Mental Health is a necessity, and the result of doing so will have a ripple effect which will assist in resolving so many issues in our society. It is not rocket science, happier people equal:
- Happier relationships leading to less broken families and eliminating all they result in.
- Better choices.
- Less people self-medicating through drugs and alcohol.
- More productive at a school, work and life in general.
- Reduction in crime.
- Increase in lots of positive things, including money back to the government. Ta Da.
- And so many more amazing things.
Ergo, an investment worth making. Could anyone really disagree?
Everyone has the right to have the support they need to enable them to live the life they choose.