Somebody who I have tremendous respect for on Twitter raised a valid point recently, that sometimes the advice that we give may not necessarily help the person who it is given to. I think that it is easy to fall into the trap of forgetting that just because we may have our labels, things that may help one may not help another.
Many things go into allowing a mental illness to grow, often we do not even realise that some things are actually not sitting right in our heads. Over time we all build up a history of life events both good and bad but sometimes things that we do not wish to deal with can become ignored or even sealed off. All the while though these issues continue to link to like-minded issues and start to grow.
There are many forms of mental illness, some can be cured, some controlled and even some that may come and go throughout life without warning. After time and some digging we may be diagnosed with a certain condition because the symptoms we have met a certain tick box criteria, that is then our label. So you then become bipolar, depression, anxiety, PTSD. It is easy then to start thinking that all anxiety sufferers have difficulty dealing with certain situations and therefore a bit of reassurance will help them.
The problem arises though when a ‘scripted’ set of help and reassurance is used but done so disregarding the various types of illness. The “to make someone with mental health feel better, tell them that it wont last, they will pull through, they can do it” and whilst those sentiments might have all the best intentions, to some they could sound hollow and show a total lack of understanding.
So we find our self at an impasse, every illness is unique to the sufferer and not every type of illness would respond to certain forms of help. So how do we help each other? We all know that the help on offer from the system is often to little, to late and often given as a textbook assessment of each illness. But to be able to help we need to share information that helps not only certain illness but even down to some way of helping individuals.
Now as you may know I am developing a site called MHPathway.org that aims to gather the best information and resources on the net to help people find things quickly and I would love to fill that site with frank and honest information about each illness will information gathered from sufferers. This then will help educate others and help anyone freshly diagnosed what to expect. I would also like to promote the “mind buddy system” where like minded sufferers look out for each other, I know that if it wasn’t for my mind buddy the past few days for me might have been very different.
It is very hard to be open and share what it is like, people even send me messages of thanks for speaking out which does make me feel good but also I feel a twang of guilt because there is so much more I wish I could say. With my mind buddy though it’s a bond that we have made, I know their illness and what to do to help and they likewise know mine. I had hoped to have this published by 8 GMT but a bit of an anxiety attack set me back. My own fault but even by text my buddy was able to help me, say the right things. Most importantly just be there and know how to handle me. I wish every person in the world could find such a person, peer-to-peer working could save a lot of people, especially if the right person is saying the right words.
While this is all great in theory it would have to become a part of the culture, to be developed and this would take time. Also I think that sometimes when we see generic messages offering encouragement and positivity we must accept that even if it’s not quite for us, it might be for someone else. I also think that with the amount of stigma and fear that is already a problem, trying to be to selective in the comfort we offer might install a climate of doubt. We need more people willing to say positive things and help get the mental health community the attention it deserves. So while education and understanding can be worked on, we still need support. I also think that if you have a bond with one or more people who you are open with and they you, build on it. Form your own little support group so the next time you need talking down, the person doing it knows how you want it done.