Why I became a mental health champion

Butterfly38 By Butterfly38, 6th Jul 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/zqygsa3p/
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Volunteering

Mental health champions help to battle stigma associated with mental illness. I myself have a past history of mental illness with Borderline Personality disorder which has many myths surrounding it. I experienced stigma, which pushed me to do something. Stigma occurs in many forms. This is about why I became a mental health champion

'Your worthless!'

I heard this alot myself, when I was recovering from mental illness. No body should be told they are worthless just because they are ill. Every body is worth something in their own individual way. However, being told your worthless when you have a mental illness is very degrading to the sufferer who may well feel worthless anyway. I was used to being told this by peers when I was bullied, I experienced many partners who told me the same thing, because 'I didn't behave in the way people they knew did.' Well one day during my recovery phase I woke up, and thought 'To hell with that!'

It took a long time for me to accept my own strengths and weaknesses and to realize that everybody had certain weaknesses and that does not make me or anybody else worthless. Most of the time, I was put down for lacking certain DIY skills like using a SDS drill to put up a curtain rail, and not being able to paint my high landing wall because I can not use a large ladder due to a physical problem with my ankle which causes me a balance and co-ordination problem when doing 2 things at once from a height. I researched this, and discovered that most of these jobs are left to the men. I am not saying women can't do them, indeed there are women who can. But why should I risk causing myself a severe injury, when I can get someone more skilled to do it? That does not make me worthless in any way! So, as a mental health champion, I put my thumb up to those who will use experienced people to help them!

'All Borderlines lie, therefore you do too!'

The media and some health professionals seem to have tarnished all people with Borderline Personality Disorder with the same brush. Even the DSM Manual has done this. However this is another myth that causes many sufferers severe emotional pain. Many are extremely vulnerable, and some are in abusive relationships, not because they want to be, but because they can not find a way out. This is because of the fact that lying has been classed as a symptom of the disorder and today many violent partners are using that to their own advantage, and because the illness is severely misunderstood by professionals, they are getting away with it. This seems predominantly the case with other illnesses too, and it is in effect putting people with a mental illness at severe risk of harm which will be carried to their children, who can also become victims and used as scapegoats in the situation if we are not aware of this. I was in this position at one point, and I never realized just how difficult and widespread it was until I became a champion.

'People with mental illness are attention seekers'

This is another serious myth that needs to be dispelled. Many people who have a mental illness have often been abused. They are not attention seeking, but are infact internalizing the abuse they were taught through 'learned behaviour.' This is usually because the behaviour caused some internal anger that they can not describe and also because in some cases of abuse, the abuser taught them to self harm by harming them. A person doing this needs a lot of help to deal with the emotions which are very deep rooted. PTSD can cause flash backs from abuse, which the victim's mind can replay like a stuck camera as if it is happening again. Due to this the person will often re-enact scenes from the abuse, without knowing it. This is not a time to 'throw it back' at them by accussing them of 'attention seeking' it is a time where you should dial a doctor or emergency services and ask for help. It can be very serious and lead to suicide if the person is not helped. They may resist, but it is important to persevere. I find when I am using my role as champion, asking them 'who is there' and 'what is happening' usually leads them to tell me what happened to them. It takes a lot of patience, but when they know you are listening, they may be more willing to accept help.

'All people with mental illness are unfit to be parents'

To me, this is like saying a disabled person in a wheel chair should not be allowed to keep her child. Sure, there are some people who are very seriously mentally ill who can not look after children. However this does not apply to 'all people with mental illness.' I know some parents with bi-polar, borderline personality disorder, clinical depression (depression IS a mental illness) who are looking after their children. They need some help now and then, and they need a break now and then too. However most parents need that whether they are ill or not. With the right level of help they can safely look after their children, and with family therapy (of which sadly no one bothered to offer my family when we needed it), they can do a good job as I have witnessed with one of my friends who has bi-polar and her children love her to bits.She cleans, cooks, works, has set routines and she has down moments but she is a good mum. I also use my championship to champion her, which means I listen, talk and offer to help but we do not talk about mental health constantly, we talk about her hobbies, newspapers, tv and daily life. It is important as a mental health champion not to 'hound' people with constant conversations on mental health, they need to feel 'normal,' so talk about every day life and you will find that can up-lift even the most stressed out person or parent

Don't believe everything the media tells you.

The media often portrays people with illnesses as 'crazy' or 'murderers.' It is true in some respects that their have been murders by people with severe mental illness, however this has often been because they have got out of hospital, their illness was left undiagnosed and not been well maintained. I take the portrayal of illness very seriously when it comes to mental illness, because they often brandish people who say for example have schizophrenia with the same brush, and they do not consider levels of the illness or the circumstances, portraying it in a very bad context. Not everybody who has an illness is a 'murderer' or 'crazy' and in all truthfulness, I feel it unfair to brand all people with mental illness in this way. I am not in any way condoning murder, but if a person has been diagnosed with a mental illness, then in my opinion the media should ask the people caring for that person for a 'true story of events' before publishing

I like my role

As you can see, my own experience plus many other issues is why I became a mental health champion. My role is good, because it allows me to help people with mental illness see positivity in their future while standing against unfair stigma. However, I am not the kind of champion who will go over the top. Many of my friends say, I am a good champion because I can draw a balance between being serious and adding humour to a difficult situation. Today in my area, I have many friends and connections with people who have mental illness who are gaining confidence through seeing what I can do, and they are standing up for themselves. If your wondering who I champion with, I champion with www.timetochange.com please do take a look, you will find much useful information on how to become a champion, and how to help someone you know who has a mental health problem.

Tags

Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mental Well Being

Meet the author

author avatar Butterfly38
I have recovered from several illnesses and I will be writing about the effects of these and parenting with mental illness. There will be many other topics that interest me too.

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Comments

author avatar peachpurple
8th Jul 2015 (#)

mentally ill in terms of still sober, can take care of kids. As long as your partner is with you, you are fit to be a parent.

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author avatar peachpurple
8th Jul 2015 (#)

mentally ill in terms of still sober, can take care of kids. As long as your partner is with you, you are fit to be a parent.

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author avatar Butterfly38
8th Jul 2015 (#)

You don't have to be with your partner to be fit to be a parent. If you and your partner separate and come to an agreement on looking after the kids, or if that's not possible, you can prove you can cope with the illness and the kids with support from your family and are engaging with other professionals to stay stable, and are putting your children first, then you are deemed fit to be a parent. One of my friends is bi-polar and she separated from her partner 4 years ago. She has a good support network, and is brilliant with the kids. Sadly her partner took the illness out on the kids aswell as her and he turned his back on them. Her family do not help her. She does well, she gets them to school, appointments, budgets, does housework and gives them holidays. She has times when she is very down, during those times I take the kids to the park for her to give her a break.If you can remain sober and you have the right help, then you can look after the kids. as long as you are not drunk around them, and are not neglecting their needs through your addiction.

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author avatar Carol Roach
12th Jul 2015 (#)

good for you, just a note, the DSM is written with all possibly symptoms of what ever mental illness you are checking. It does not mean that any person with mental illness has all the symptoms, they just need to a some of them to be said to have the disease. I had a few borderline personalty disorder patients in my practice. The bottom line is they were all abused. Cutting they all told me was a form of release from the pain. This also confirms what the dsm says

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author avatar Butterfly38
12th Jul 2015 (#)

That is true Carol. However some profesionals from my experience have a tendency to treat the DSM like it is set in stone. 2 workers who were involved with my family at one point, trusted the DSM so much and decided to label me with all the symptoms of the mental illness that I was recovering from, even though I only had 4 of the borderline symptoms. The other thing they did was brand me a liar, just because it was listed in the DSM that one of the symptoms of my illness was 'compulsive lying.' Because of that, I never really got the support I needed to recover and bring up my family.

One needs to remember in mental health that the DSM is only a guide. What fits one persons symptoms doesn't fit another persons symptoms. Luckily I had a brilliant mental health worker who stood by me through that time. However I never got to the last session of my therapy because I was physically ill, but I got my final one to one, and was told I was in 'remmission from the illness.' I have been given the all clear from the GP, even though I have clinical depression, which was brought on by the fact that I knew if I'd been listened to, my family could have been cared for better.

The problem is, there are too many professionals dealing with mental illness who have very little understanding of it. I later discovered through my courses and my experience, that many Social Workers looking after children, didn't have the skill or knowledge to deal with parents with mental illness. One of the things I am doing in my role as mental health champion, is speaking out, and I am hoping to be able to get the government to budget more mental health training for social care.

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