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Mental illness – to say or not to say

At any time in the UK 1 in 4 will experience mental health problems in a year.  8 to 12% of the population experience depression, the UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe. Around 40% of people report stress related illness as a result of their work.

Given all of these problems that we face in the UK why do we still find it so difficult to talk about mental illness and why are we so afraid to admit to having mental health problems. Certainly the statistics are not on your side when it comes to work with some research showing that less than 40% of employers would consider employing someone with a mental health problem.

AnxietyThere is a sense that the person recovering from mental illness and returning to work has to go through several ordeals. Regardless of what might have been said to colleagues there is a sense of going back and having to prove oneself. What will you say was wrong when there is no visible scar. What judgement will follow if it was perceived to be mental illness? Often the person can feel they need to prove themselves in the eyes of others.

Unfortunately because we find the subject difficult as a society to talk about, we avoid it, it becomes the elephant in the room. There is strange health discrimination where society might ask if you are feeling better after a physical illness, yet after a mental illness, is much more likely to ask after the cat’s health.

The Equality Act offers those with mental health issues some protection and it is not necessary to prove the detail of how that affects you. It prevents you being discriminated against. Even with this important piece of legislation disclosure will always be a personal choice. While it is great that star like Ruby Wax and Steven Fry talk about mental illness that can feel a little far away from real life but there are many ordinary people in ordinary lives talking about their illness to family and friends and even to work so that they can get the support that they need.

For each person that stands up and says I have had a mental illness and I got treatment it makes it a little easier for the next person. I think this is one of the most powerful videos out there here