I was minding my own business, like you do, as I perused my Facebook newsfeed a few days ago, when I came across something I didn’t like. I fought with myself. Was this going to be one of those things that I would fight back on, convinced the writer needed my opinion? Or would I let it slide?Actually I did a bit of both. To start with, I couldn’t help myself and had to put my two cents worth in, but when I got heated responses I decided I was best to opt out and leave them to their own rather firm opinions. It’s always so hard to know, do I fight or not?
The issue was the announcement of the theme of the World Mental Health Day 2012 (in October), as ‘Depression – A Global Crisis’.
I had no problem with the topic, actually I think it’s great that a mental illness gets the focus. The difficulty I had was the comments of people complaining that this was far too negative a topic and it was time that the event focussed on health rather than illness.
Interestingly the topics of the past few years have been:
- The Great Push: Investing in Mental Health (2011)
- Mental Health and Chronic Physical Illnesses (2010)
- Mental Health in Primary Care (2009)
I should say that I was particularly interested in this announcement because I had recently found out that this event in October is the reason why New Zealand, Australia and perhaps other countries have not recognised the May ‘Mental Health Awareness Month’ currently going on in many countries. I was told, rather tersely when I enquired about New Zealand’s involvment in the May activities, that May has nothing to do with mental health. There clearly seems to be some tension in the air over these two events, although I won’t get side-tracked onto that.
Rather, people are claiming that a topic like Depression has no place in a Mental Health event. This is bizarre! So what is mental health? The World Health Organisation tells us that mental health is defined as:
“as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
I can’t argue with this but I notice that there is actually no acknowledgement of mental illness. They say mental health is a state of well-being and not just the absence of illness. I can accept that but wonder why there isn’t more focus on mental illness. And what is so wrong with using a specific mental illness as the focus of a mental health event? It almost seemed that the people I chose not to argue with didn’t want to acknowledge that mental illness exists. And if this isn’t a case of stigma doing it’s damnedest I’m really not sure what is.
Put all of this argument (that didn’t really happen) aside and it makes me wonder what I mean when I talk about mental health here. In most cases what I am really talking about is an absence of mental health, or mental illness. It seems from what I stumbled on that ‘Mental Health’ and ‘Mental Illness’ are perhaps two sides that don’t want to meet.
This all seems like such a shame. If we want to remove the stigma attached to mental illness I fear we will never achieve this when the very people charged with promoting the healthy answer do not want to know. No doubt they might protest but I really don’t see why mental illness can not be part of mental health. I am convinced it is possible for me to live with my mental illness, yet have a firm hold on my mental health.
Right now it is not my mental illness that is preventing me from particpating fully in a healthy life. If it weren’t for my physical illness (Fibromyalgia), my Borderline Personality Disorder would not be holding me back. Sure it makes some things difficult but I don’t accept that I don’t have mental health.
What do you think? Am I away with the fairies on this one? Or is there are problem when people don’t want to acknowledge the existence of a mental illness when discussing mental health?
“Our society tends to regard as a sickness any mode of thought
or behaviour that is inconvenient for the system and this is
plausible because when an individual doesn’t fit into the system it
causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system.
Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is
seen as a cure for a sickness and therefore as good.”
- Normal (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Stigma (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Half of Us (psychsplash.com)