People urged to speak out more over mental illness and not suffer in silence

Jason Hanson, Mansfield counsellor.
Jason Hanson, Mansfield counsellor.

Naturally,as a therapist I have always been a proponent of people disclosing and feeling comfortable enough to speak out about their emotional anguish, writes Jason Hanson, a Mansfield counsellor.

In western, contemporary UK society we are beginning to see a decrease in the stigma attached to mental illness.

However, this stigma still exists and sadly some people are still suffering in silence, resulting, in the more extreme cases, of people taking their own lives.

I often reflect on why society is accepting of physiological illnesses such as cancer, but is less forgiving when it comes to an invisible illness.

Perhaps I have just answered my own question there – a section of society struggles to comprehend that which has no visibility.

It is therefore imperative as a society we grasp the very simple concept that physical and mental illness can have the same catastrophic consequences.

I recently came across an article where a celebrity had been castigated via social media due to some ostensibly disparaging comments made about mental health.

Back in October he had stated we should all call mental illness mental strength, to encourage people to be more resilient.

My response to that is that the comment makes a sweeping generalisation that everybody responds to adversity in the same way and has the same ability to locate their own coping strategies.

If this were the case, myself and every other therapist would be defunct.

It offers a naïve and simplistic view of what is an extremely complex issue, with no simple answer.

The truth is, sometimes we need somebody to listen to us and help us find a little perspective and seeking that out in the first instance is a form of resilience.

More recently this individual has sparked controversy by stating some celebrities who speak out about mental illness are almost making this a fashion accessory.

This is a little more interesting to address as anything which detracts from those who are genuinely affected by mental illness, you could argue, is counterproductive.

However, in the context it was conveyed in, it was very derogatory to anybody affected by mental health, never mind the individual it was aimed at.

Celebrities speaking out about their own battles with mental illness can only have a positive effect on individuals within a society reticent to disclose about its own struggles.

It can convey the sometimes lost message that anybody can be affected by it, irrespective of wealth and fame.

The only way we as a society are going to combat the stigma of mental illness is by having it out there for public discussion.

It needs to become something which we embrace, not fear.

The unhelpful attitudes around mental illness are the Achilles heel of progress and challenging these attitudes needs to be as much of a priority as encouraging people to open up about their mental illness.