Dignity In Mental Health
World Mental Health Day takes place on 10 October every year with the objective of raising awareness around mental health issues and the theme for this year is “Dignity in mental health”.
The statistics suggest that one in four people will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life yet there can still be stigma around mental health and in my experience as a solicitor it was not something that was talked about.
There is nothing to suggest that those working in the law are immune from mental health difficulties so what stops them from being open about the issue? It may be the fear that they will be seen as weak or vulnerable if they admit that they have a problem. However this just reinforces the stigma as it is only through speaking out that mental health issues can be addressed.
How can we challenge stigma?
This may necessitate a widespread change across the profession particularly those in leadership positions but there are also things that can be done on an individual level, such as
• looking out for colleagues who may be having difficulties.
• recognising our own prejudices about mental health
• becoming more informed about mental health issues
• avoiding the use of labelling and language such as “mad”, “loopy”, “crazy” etc
• being open about experiences of mental illness so that it is not hidden
• Challenging the myths about mental health
Common myths about mental health
Myth: Mental health doesn’t affect me
We all have mental health in the same way that we have physical health and just as we would go to the gym and eat well to look after our bodies there are things we can do to help look after our minds, such as going for walks, relaxing, and talking about our emotions.
Myth: Mental health issues are a sign of weakness
Mental illness is not about being weak as there are lots of factors which contribute to mental health difficulties such as biological causes, as well as life experiences such as stress and trauma.
In fact in his book “Depressive illness: the curse of the strong”, Dr. Tim Cantopher suggests that depression caused by stress often affects those people who are “strong” in that they try to cope with one problem after another without asking for help.
Myth: Mental illness can’t be treated
There are a wide range of treatments including both medication and talking therapy and many people are able to live and work productively.
The hope is that by making “dignity” the focus of this year’s World Mental Health Day, we can all play a part in ending the stigma around mental health issues so that those affected feel respected and more able to seek early help whether from family, friends or healthcare professionals.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties or you have any questions about how to look after your mental health then please contact me.