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How does Boris Johnson's opinion help the stigma against mental health issues? Lynn News letters

Being mentally ill and being unable to work is not fun. I can only convey my own experience, of course, but may I ask how this one person’s opinion, which he gets to broadcast to a large audience, is helping the stigma against mental health problems?

Mental illness is a spectrum. Everybody is different. There are some people who go through episodes of mental ill health and are then either still able to work with the correct support or who are able to rejoin the workforce after a period of rest.

Then there are those of us who suffer from lifelong conditions who need constant monitoring and medication.

I have known many people in my life (most well meaning) who simply do not understand why I cannot work and surely, if I tried harder or applied myself in a different way, then I would be able to achieve this goal. I guess that one of the main sticking points for people is that my main – or rather first – diagnosis is depression. I cannot tell you the number of folks who have said, “Well I had depression and I was still able to work etc”.

A young man suffering from depression looks out of a window wondering how to cope with the day ahead.
A young man suffering from depression looks out of a window wondering how to cope with the day ahead.

The problem is that the word depression covers a number of conditions. It’s an umbrella term really. I have “chronic major depressive disorder with psychotic symptoms”. I also now suffer from “generalised anxiety disorder” and some levels of “dissociation”. I take anti depressants, anti psychotics and on very bad days, Valium.

The one thing that these people have in common with Mr Johnson is that they seem to have all taken degrees in psychiatry and psychology. Can you imagine a politician suggesting working through the pain in somebody who had epilepsy or cancer? Both are awful terrible conditions, but again some people are able to work and then there are some people who need care and strong medications.

I have a real problem in that for years I have felt like a burden on the world and I still get jealous of people who are able to lead “normal lives”. However, as my psychologist has pointed out, I come from a family like most others who have paid taxes and as embarassing as I might find it, part of those taxes are supposed to be for the NHS.

The mental health services in this part of the country in particular is almost non existent. There are no beds for those who are seriously mentally ill. If somebody is in crisis then the current idea is to go to A and E, wait for a psychiatrist to come and access you, and then you go home. That’s it. That’s all they have.

Look, if people don’t understand then that’s up to them, but maybe Mr Johnson would be interested in talking to my GP, psychiatrist and psychologist before he recommends the traditional British “stiff upper lip”.

Kristen Finch


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