Thursday, 10 October 2013

World Mental Health Day 2013!!

It's October 10 in Australia right now and that means it is world mental health day.

This is an annual initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health.

In Australia this year the campaign is based around the idea of people taking responsibility for their own mental health. The campaign slogan is "mental health begins with me".

It's main objectives are;
- encourage help seeking behaviour
- reduce the stigma associated with mental illness
- Foster connectivity through communities

Now, I do think the premise for this years campaign is somewhat problematic. It seems to take away from the seriousness of mental illness, by presenting it as something which can be controlled by the individual. I think the idea of taking responsibility for your own mental health can be very difficult for people already in the grips of a severe mental illness and can be very triggering for these people.

While I do not believe in taking all responsibility away from the individual, I think a campaign such as this should use less 'blaming' language. Mental illness is not your fault. It is no ones fault. Any efforts to reduce stigmatisation should make this point very clear.

People need to understand than no one chooses mental illness. It is not fun or  glamorous. People with mental illness' are not trying to seek attention. They are ill. They are struggling and because of the stigma, they would much rather keep it hidden until it eats them alive. Literally.

I think the objectives of this campaign are great. Fostering connectivity through communities, encouraging help seeking behaviour and reducing stigma are excellent and much needed goals. However, when combined with the slogan "mental health begins with me" and the notion of encouraging people to take responsibility for their own mental health, I think it has a very damaging message. It suggests that people have control over whether or not they develop a mental illness or whether or not they recover. This is not always the case. Much of the time people are too scared or too damaged to seek help because of the stigma associated with having a mental illness.

More focus needs to be given to reducing the stigma, improving education and awareness and making mental health services more accessible.

As blogger, mental health activist and father to two children suffering severe mental illness, Michael Schofield wrote "we cannot go into their minds and 'fix' them. But we can fix the world so they can live in it." (January First, Prologue)

Until next time :) xx

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