The Changing Perception of Mental Health

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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Adele, and Prince Harry This list may seem random, each a celebrity who excels in their own field, but all have one thing in common. They have all spoken openly of their struggles with mental health whilst living in the glare of the media.

Paula West from Azur Counselling said: ‘More and more people are asking for help, and that’s in part down to high profile celebrities speaking about their struggles.’

Last year The Mental Heath Foundation released figures stating that one in four people will experience metal health problems at some point in their lives, and depression will affect one in twelve of the whole population.

Mental health issues have always been stigmatised and this is one of the hardest obstacles which must be overcome.

Shari Harding wrote an article in June 2017 for Psychology Today which says: “Stigma can make people feel somehow less-than, damaged or abnormal because of a diagnosis of mental illness often leading to negative consequences.”

This in turn can impede people seeking and receiving lifesaving treatment.

To understand how far society has come recent years, there needs to be an understanding of the past.

People lived in fear that if discovered they would be removed from their families and subjected to life of institutionalisation in an asylum.

Asylums were historically a cross between a prison and a hospital. Tasha Stanley of the history co-operative explained in an article called A Beautiful Mind: The History of the Treatment of Mental Illness how treatment within such places, included electro-shock therapy, skull drilling, isolation, exorcism and lobotomies. The results of this kind of radical treatment was dramatic, people were left vegetables, leaving them as a ‘ghost’ of who they were before.

Sigmund Freud has been accredited as the father of psychology and counselling. He recognised a person’s mind cannot be seen as having one part, but three driving factors – the ‘ID’ is the primal drive which controls sexual desires and aggression. Its function is to protect and ensure survival. The ‘SUPER-EGO’ is a person’s consciousness, a moral compass. The ‘EGO’ is the moderator between the two.

Freud’s contemporise including Carl Rogers, the founder of Person-Centred counselling, Eric Berne the founder of Transactional Analysis and Aaron Beck founder of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy better known as CBT.

Collectively known as talking therapies, each with its own beliefs and diverse techniques provide people with the tools they need to cope with daily life.

Rebecca Richardson has suffered sever bouts of depression for over ten years. Twelve months ago, she found the courage ask for help.

I was so scared that I would be told to get a grip or made to feel ashamed of how I feel I just kept things to myself. I felt like I was drowning.’

It was only after reading about the way Prince Harry had suffered for over twenty years, she realised that she wasn’t alone.

“Walking through Maggy’s door was the hardest thing I had ever done. I could barely speak. For the first ten minutes we just sat there. She (Maggy the counsellor) told me to take my time and that it was okay for me not to know where to start.”

One of the misconceptions about talking therapy is that you go into a room, tell someone your issues and they tell you how to deal with it, in the same way a doctor gives you a prescription for an ailment. This could not be further from the truth.

“Counselling is a very personal and at times painful process which takes time and commitment.

“It’s not a one shoe fits all solution, there are different types of therapy and some are more effective than others in the treatment of certain issues. The NHS has a focus on CBT, but there are other options available”. Says Mrs West.

The openness of high-profile celebrities is helping to ‘normalise’ such difficult subject.

No-one regardless of who they are wants to feel alone. Isolation acts as a magnifying glass. It can focus the mind on specific aspects or situations intensifying emotions, doubts and fears.

The range of mental illnesses range as wide as the people who are afflicted by them.

Adele experienced pre and post-natal depression.

Dwayne Johnson and Prince Harry experienced years of depression.

These three people are only a snippet of the long list of brave individuals who have allowed a glimpse inside what appears to be ‘perfect’ lives.

From a distance the world of celebrity and royalty is beyond comprehension.

When you look closer, taking away the headline names and sparkle, they are no different to anyone else.

A woman struggling with pregnancy and becoming a mum, a little boy who lost his mum and a teenage who’s mum tried taking her life after their family hit rock bottom.

They are issues experienced by people all over the world on an hourly basis.

The media and the power of celebrity have combined, and people are beginning to talk openly.

The internet and social media allow likeminded people to connect and offer support like never before. Support groups and chat rooms are easily accessible offering everything from coping techniques for the sufferer to reassurance for partners and family members who struggle to understand those closest to them.

By talking, be that with a friend, a parent or a professional the process of change is happening.

To gain access to professional help there are two primary routes. As private client or as an NHS referral.

The NHS process is effective however it can take time and is dependent on the services available that area. As a result, it is common place for medication to be prescribed allowing people to function and live constructively.

In a report produced by David Brown and Nick Triggle for BBC News on 30th September 2017 called – Mental Health: 10 Charts on the Scale of the Problem it state explains how the number of prescriptions for antidepressants issued for anxiety, depression and panic-attacks has increased from 31 million in 2006 to 65 million in 2016, an increase of 108.5% in a ten-year period.

Miss Richardson went to see her doctor for a referral. She waited over six months for an appointment and was given medication. ‘It would have been easy to just keep taking the tablets, but all they were doing was acting an anaesthetic to ease the pain. I was given six sessions of CBT which helped, but I felt like I needed more to really get to the bottom of what was happening, so I paid for more sessions privately. I’ve not taken any medication now for nine months.’

Mental health is being considered more and more alongside the treatment of physical conditions. In a report by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) on the role of counselling and psychotherapy in improving public wellbeing, it states: ‘UK governments recognise there is ‘no health without mental health’ and improving wellbeing is key to improving health’

Working in a collaborative multi-agency way, co-ordinating physical and mental health provisions will ensure that people are treated as a whole person, mind and body together.

Moving forward through 2018 and beyond the NHS, is the Mental Health Inpatient and Community Project. This is a data collection project designed to allow any mental health providers to compare quality of service, finance and workforce. The aim is to help improve productivity and effectiveness in a collaborative way.

Evaluation

This story came about as a result of the on-going public interest in mental health.

As a former counselling degree student, it is something which I have always cared deeply about. I have personally been affected by some of these issues so understand both the patient and counsellor’s perspective.

This is the kind of article which would sit inside a publication a little more than Woman’s Weekly, but not as high as the BACP publications. Something along the lines of Health would be the preferred level.

The piece was interesting to write and the people I spoke to were extremely honest and open. I was pointed in the direction of both Rebecca and Paula through a contact within the industry.

This is the kind of story which could be researched more over time with case studies highlighting more in depth the extent of the change.


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