Documentaries on mental health are everywhere right now, are you watching?
As a therapist I'll admit to enjoying more than my fair share of mental health focussed programming - be that on the BBC in the form of documentaries or via podcasts, programmes on other channels or reading up on the latest mental health research in the magazine which I receive monthly as a member of the BACP (British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy): Therapy Today or more mainstream magazines such as Psychologies. But lately I've noticed an upsurge in the kind of programmes that focus on specific mental health issues - Louis Theroux recently making an important and empathic documentary called Talking to anorexia - if you haven't seen this yet I highly recommend it.
And this focus - in my opinion - can only be a good thing.
The more we know about mental health issues, the more we see others like us with their stories and their struggles along with their messages, negative or positive, the more I think that we as a society come to know, acknowledge and comprehend the similarities between us and our fellow humans. The stigma falls away when its something that we become used to - and we really should get used to it since so many of us have or will suffer with a mental illness at some point in our lives.
The World Health Organisation posted a report stating:
"One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide."
It also goes on to say that two thirds of those who have a known mental health issue never seek help from a health professional.
Can we look at this with the same model that we apply to physical medical issues for a moment? Imagine a world if you will, where two thirds of those who have an illness or physical medical problem do not seek help. Someone has a broken arm. Its incredibly painful but because they're afraid of the stigma and judgement that they expect to receive if they seek help that they decide not to go to a hospital. They think that if they take care if it at home, keep it a secret because they're ashamed of whats hurting them, that it will heal and eventually go away.
Now lets trade that broken arm for anorexia. For PTSD. For addiction. There is no more shame in seeking help for a mental health problem than for seeking help for a physical malady.
I could go on (I won't).
What I'm trying to say here is - there but for a poorly timed run-in with a bus go us all, with a trip to the hospital and a broken rib. On another day we might find our partner has decided they no longer want to be in a relationship with us, so with a bruised ego and sadness in our heart we go to a therapist and work out how we will live our lives in a new way.
I think that I as a counsellor have a duty to let people know that the work which I do can be a route to healing ourselves if/when they need to. To support managing stress, for dealing with overwhelming emotions or chaos not of our making.
That's a little of what I'm trying to do here and in my other counselling blog posts.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.