Mental Health Focus: Challenging Stigma
This week, we are focusing on some of the mental health challenges that people can face. There are many different mental health conditions which have varying symptoms and affect people in different ways. We have chosen to focus on three of the most well-known ones, as they are often the ones that face the most misunderstanding.
Bipolar is a severe mental illness characterised by extreme mood swings that go beyond most people’s experience of happy or sad. Someone with bipolar can have periods of stability punctuated with lows (deep depression) and highs (hypomania, mania or psychosis).
Depression affects everyone differently, but it is commonly a state of very low energy and feeling hopeless, sad and tearful. Mania can be experienced as feelings of euphoria, invincibility and high levels of energy.
Bipolar can affect anyone, of any age. It is estimated that between 1-5% of people worldwide have bipolar. In the UK, there are over 1 million people who have bipolar, which is roughly 30% more than the number of people who have dementia.
Break the stigma
People fear the unknown, and for a long time, those with bipolar were thought to be ‘crazy’. We have come a long way in our understanding of the illness, but some of the old misconceptions still exist. Indeed, the mania of bipolar can cause some reckless and inappropriate behaviours that illicit a negative reaction. However, it’s important to understand that bipolar is an illness, not a choice. With treatment and support those with bipolar can lead a mostly stable life and fulfil their potential.
Find out more here: https://www.bipolaruk.org/
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a serious anxiety-related condition that affects around 750,000 people in the UK. People may experience frequent intrusive obsessional thoughts, which can result in repetitive behaviours or rituals designed to prevent a perceived harm and/or worry. Such behaviours, or compulsions, can include avoidance of people or places, internal mental counting, checking of body parts, and constantly seeking reassurance.
Obsessive thoughts (such as fear of contamination from dirt or viruses, thoughts of violence, fear of harm, excessive concern with order or symmetry) can lead to high levels of anxiety, worry, fear, guilt and doubt. These feelings can impact someone’s life to the extent that they are unable to function because they are plagued by intrusive thoughts, and must carry out compulsive behaviours in order to counteract them or to feel relief.
Break the stigma
One of the most common misconceptions about OCD is that it’s about wanting things neat and tidy or being fastidious about cleaning, or that someone can be ‘a little bit OCD’. This trivialises the debilitating and distressing nature of the condition, which can severely impact an individual’s ability to function day to day.
Find out more here: https://www.ocduk.org/
There are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people interact and communicate with the rest of the world. It is a spectrum condition and so affects people in different ways. Support needs can vary from complex 24-hour care to simply needing a little more time to do things.
Some of the difficulties that autistic people may experience include:
- Social interaction challenges
- Repetitive and restrictive behaviours
- Under or over-sensitivity to light, sound, touch or taste
- Highly focused interests
- Extreme anxiety
- Meltdowns and shutdowns
Break the stigma
Being a spectrum condition, autism varies so much that there is no single experience, which means there are many myths – it’s just children being naughty, autistic people have learning difficulties, it only affects boys, autistic people are just anti-social. None of these are true, and it can be very difficult for autistic people to be understood. Raising awareness of what autism looks like is the first step to acceptance.
Find out more here: https://www.autism.org.uk/
We hope this post has helped begin to break the stigma surrounding some of the mental health challenges that people face and has inspired you to find out more.
Photo by Ryunosuke Kikuno on Unsplash