There is a big campaign, with lots of publicity, about speaking out on mental health issues and making it okay to admit to friends and family that you have problems. This is a good initiative but there are a few issues I’ve noticed.
Virtue signalling for exposure
Some celebrities have hijacked the subject of mental health to promote new books, new tv shows, almost anything they are ‘selling’. Their past, maybe current, problems are probably real, but when the last part of their ‘confession’ is a commercial link or tag, I begin to question their motives – or those of their agents.
Me too reactions
When a mental issue is raised among friends or family there is often a ‘me too’ reaction. Phrases which I’ve heard include…
1 Well I could let myself be depressed, but I just shake myself out of it.
2 We’re all on the autistic scale somewhere.
3 God I know what you mean, like I literally have thought about killing myself so many times.
4 We’ve all got OCD to some extent, I do loads of those things too.
5 I’ve had a few sessions with CBT and it’s cured me completely.
6 There’s nothing wrong with you, I’ve known you for years and you don’t have that.
I hope I don’t need to pick apart each one of these responses, but if you haven’t suffered from any serious mental health issues you will never fully understand the trauma they can cause. I spent some time as a Samaritan listener and it put my own problems firmly in perspective. Yes, I have been diagnosed with mental health problems. Yes, I do take some modest medication to help with those problems. But I cope.
From the casual observer’s point of view I have lived a pretty normal, stable life. But nobody knows what goes on inside someone else’s head. To suggest you do, and that’s it’s perfectly normal, is as ridiculous as saying “I used to only have one leg, but I decided to grow another one”.