We shouldn’t shy away from the ugly side of mental illness

1 in 4 of us experience mental illness at some point in our lives – but its prevalence doesn’t make it an easy ride.

We have the US president tackling the ‘stigma’ of guns by blaming mass shootings on mental illness instead.

But the image of violent mentally ill people is untrue. According to Time to Change, the majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems, yet 90% of people who die through suicide each year are experiencing mental distress.

And at the other end of the scale, I feel it’s unfair to talk of the ‘common’ disorders (e.g. depression and anxiety) as if they’re nothing more than feeling a bit down or on edge.

Read the full article on Metro.

Good morning Storycampers!

I can barely believe it’s been a whole year since I slept in, bodged my eyeliner and didn’t have time to wash my hair before dashing to the train station and winging my way to London for the Time to Change storycamp event.

But it has. A whole year. And in that year so much has happened. Needless to say, Time to Change and all the fabulous peeps there have played a big part in my life.

So I was seriously chuffed to be asked to speak this year alongside Andrea, Shea and Jodie (I love the blummin’ lot of them).

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EastEnders: Is it wrong to portray somebody with mental illness talking to themselves?

This will probably go down like a lead balloon….and I will state right away that I am completely happy to be challenged on this – you might even change my mind…but here goes…

I know that there has been upset regarding the Lisa Fowler storyline in EastEnders. Her character returned to the Square and within days was seen talking to herself in what people believe is a stereotyped portrayal of mental illness. But there’s something that I, personally, think we are getting confused with regarding portrayals of mental health.

Whilst I don’t believe we should betray people as scary, frightening and irrational, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t portray mental illness in that way. It is, after all, pretty scary sometimes.

So I think with this EastEnders storyline, it all depends on what happens next. It all depends on the context. Do we get to see Lisa the person, or do we only get to see Lisa the ‘crazy person’? That’s when I might want to raise a complaint. But I’ll give it a little time yet.

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Panorama – a prescription for propaganda

So the recent Panorama has caused some controversy. It was entitled ‘A prescription for murder’ and was supposedly an investigation into the dangerous effects of antidepressants.

In my view, it was wholly unfair and served to reinvigorate stigma around medication. Of course, I’m not suggesting that taking SSRIs is a risk free business, and I am certainly not suggesting that serious reactions do not exist. I was, however, accused of doing so after publishing an article with the i Newspaper. My problem was with the portrayal. Not with the idea that some people may experience frightening symptoms.

Click here to read my i News article. I’d love to know your thoughts on the topic as well so please do comment below.

 

Stop using mental health as bait

We all love to boo a pantomime baddie, but that’s usually because they’re stealing a magic lamp or weaving destructive magic spells. We know it’s all made up and we know they’ll get their comeuppance. But yet again, Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan are enjoying the boos and hisses by taking their pantomime into real life. They’re baiting us with mental health stigma. Sadly, that’s not fictional.

MegaphoneBBC Question Time was a prime hook for the recent onslaught of mental health provocation with Katie Hopkins, rather predictably, tweeting:

‘Breaking news: it is possible to pay for mental health counselling privately if you save hard enough’.

Of course the mentally ill are fair game aren’t they. They’re bound to get upset and have a tantrum. That’ll get the Twitter engagement figures flying. That’ll land more controversial headlines.

It was much the same with Piers Morgan’s recent attacks on Will Young:

‘Will Young does not have PTSD. He has WNTS – Whiny Needy Twerp Syndrome.’

Mental health campaigner Denise Welch rightly called him out which resulted in more mud-slinging from the lovely Piers who called Denise a ‘publicity-starved bore’. Nice.

So why am I falling into the trap and talking about them some more? Because they already have the platform and the airtime. They already have the ears and eyes of millions of people. And they already have the power to influence. Sadly.

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Pipe down Piers

There’s a charter for those who work in PR, marketing, accountancy and HR. It’s to promote responsibility. Yet celebrities – who have a much greater influence than I have, for example, in my PR role – don’t have to sign up to anything.

So it’s kind of about trust and good will. What would you do if you had such a powerful platform? If one tweet could reach millions? If you could completely change somebody’s day? Would you try to do something to help? Or would you ridicule those who do?

It’s ironic, really, that Piers Morgan accused Denise Welch of using mental health to raise her profile. He uses his nasty pantomime act to gain attention a la Katie Hopkins. I watched Good Morning Britain one morning on the TV in the gym. It was the interview with Nicola Thorp who was sacked for refusing to wear high heels.  It was deliberately provocative, of course. Does he really believe women should wear high heels or face losing their job? Whether he does or not it’s shocking. Shocking that he believes in something so blatantly sexist or, on the other hand, shocking that he is willing to peddle such shite to draw in the ratings in a cheap and nasty Jerry Springer show kind of way.

It’s Good Morning Britain. It’s mainstream telly. I’ve never watched it since leaving the gym that day.

But I couldn’t get off Twitter last night.

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It’s time to start speaking to children about mental health

Last week marked the final hearing in the joint inquiry into the role of education in children’s mental health.

Among the issues discussed in the inquiry were awareness, training for teachers and support for pupils. 

I want to focus on that first point. Awareness.

Read this article in the independent.

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