Self stigma is rife amongst people with a mental health malady.
Every day, folks who are given a diagnosis that all is not well with their psyche point the finger of ‘pull yourself together’ at themselves.
So often, they jettison any previous labels they’d given themselves – for example ‘Dad’, ‘Friend’, ‘Partner’, ‘Player of darts’ …replacing it with their all new mental health label – schizophrenic, depressive, borderline, psychotic to name but few.
People become their diagnosis – they’ve often been raised in a prejudiced society where people with mental health problems are seen as malingerers at best and axe wielding maniacs at the other end of the spectrum.
Imagine if you had a physical ailment that the same treatment was afforded you – labelling someone as the ‘flu, the broken hip, measles…?
In the upfront and personal world, I’d invaded Wales. It had been a rainy old day, but I’d enjoyed the company of Mike as he chummed me some of the way to Connah’s Quay telling me about his daughter and wife who were both enjoying an education in psychology. All good stuff.
Donations had been good so I contemplated a stay in a b&b – I made a speculative call to Jenny at Oakenholt farm.
She immediately offered me a freebie and, half an hour later, I was warmly welcomed in.
Jenny was knowledgable and enthusiastic to talk about what I was doing and about mental health in general.
She expressed concern for her father, David, who, after his retirement from farming, had been effected by depression. In his early 80’s, he still gets up and puts on his overalls as he has done for years.
She told me he was open and honest about his depression, talking to his fellow farmers at the cattle market about it – they rewarded him with open and regular concern about his mental health.
The family, concerned that much of the time he does nothing with himself – watching quiz shows on TV, becoming more and more introspective becoming lost in his own world, felt that getting out and about more would help him.
They knew of a day centre nearby that might give him the social prod he needed.
I met David, a tall man with a ready smile a twinkle in his eye. Talking to him, his was a world of loss – at 16 he’d lost his father, as a result he’d been unable to pursue his desired career as an auctioneer, taking his place at the family farm to support his mother instead.
Recently he’d dislocated his shoulder leaving him with a permanently damaged arm and hand.
The loss of his life as a farmer…
He doesn’t want to go to a day centre – what could that have to offer him? After all, it was full of old folk.
This man is like gold dust! He’s open and honest about mental health and he’s a right dead manly man too.
Whereas many of us, when asked how we are, start talking about football and/ or rugby/ the weather…he talks about the stuff that matters.
I told him he’d be a positive asset to any group or day centre or gathering you could name.
I really hope he heard me. I’m sure his lovely family will remind him regularly that he has so much to offer.
Walk a mile