Yet more negative reporting on mental health issues…..
I was asked by a colleague to look into the recent frenzy surrounding the mental health debate on stigma and public opinion. This time it is about a comment possibly made with best interest concerns at heart. Sadly, MP Chamali Fernando’s comments did not provide a suitable response to the question asked about how best to support people managing mental health issues and only served to create a huge backlash. My colleague felt I should respond with a strong opinion on such poor understanding on mental health from a person in the public eye. Some angry comments about the MP suggested she was party to the stigma assigned to people managing mental distress, however, I disagree; she did not show any malice or contempt for such individuals.
On reading up, I felt the only comment of note for me was the one made by Marc Burrows of The Guardian – ‘Wristbands for mentally ill people are a silly, but sadly revealing, idea’ 15th April 2015. He noted correctly in my opinion, that although unthought through and unrealistic given our current social climate Ms. Fernando’s comments are not totally without basis. Her comments do however, show a lack of understanding of the social and psychological impact both mental ill health and society’s general view; has on an individual managing such a difficulty.
So what can I add to the debate? I feel that we as a society are too quick to see when others have done wrong, too quick to cast blame, and too quick to change our thoughts on an issue in order to benefit ourselves or get into the limelight.
To start changing this, we need to think about the other person as though we are in their shoes – what help, comment, and viewpoint would I want if I were managing such a condition? If you don’t know then your first step is to find out how it feels, through training, through getting involved, through asking. As 1 in 4 of us will manage a mental health difficulty at any one time in our lives, there are plenty of people out there who can help us understand.
What next? Do something about it any thing, perhaps some thing small. As Time to Change advise, a small text to a friend to say “Heh, you ok?” Train yourself, go online, look for courses; get your company, workplace, or place of study involved.
Ms. Fernando said she knew she and her colleagues need training on this subject in order to understand better and thus respond effectively- I say contact me! My company can help you and your colleagues there is no time like the present!
And no we will not judge you for what was said we will support you to move forward in your understanding, then we can send out a positive report to the media on mental health issues for the people to get into a frenzy about……. Or maybe not.
(Mental health trainer, mentor and consultant)