Invisible Illness – Beware the Mask
8th February 2018
If you walk into a room with your head, arms, hands or legs covered in bandage, people will see that you’re suffering, know that you’re injured, that there’s pain and hurt coursing through you.
If you walk into a room with a warm smile spread across your face, people won’t see that you’re suffering, won’t know that you’re injured, won’t understand that there’s pain and hurt coursing through you.
According to the World Health Organisation there are close to 620 million people on this planet today who suffer from poor mental health. The invisible illness that hides in plain sight.
In Britain alone an estimated one in four adults will experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem during their lifetime; affecting the way they think, the way they feel, the way they behave.
Statistics also reveal:
- One in ten children experience mental health problems.
- Depression affects around 8 per cent of the UK population.
- Rates of self-harm in this country are the highest in Europe at 400 per 100,000
The social stigma attached to mental ill health and the discrimination people can experience is perhaps the single biggest barrier to recovery. This stigma can come from family, friends, colleagues, employers.
Most people believe that people with mental health problems are violent and dangerous. That could not be further from the truth. The fact is, as research shows, people suffering poor mental health are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves.
This skewed, negative perception exists because society in general has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people. This just leads to discrimination which can exacerbate someone’s mental health problems and delay or even prevent their recovery. All discrimination does is trap people in a cycle of illness.
The media doesn’t help either. Reports on TV or in the press often link mental illness with violence or portray sufferers as dangerous and criminal minded, unable or unwilling to live normal lives. This is wrong and it’s disgusting.
The best way to challenge these stereotypes is through personal experience, first-hand contact with those individuals who are living with a mental illness.
When I worked as a personal coach and mentor, most of my clients were inflicted with some aspect of stress and anxiety. Many were being treated for depression, many were in counselling for behavioural anomalies.
People who are conflicted by the turmoil of warped thoughts and feelings, people who are struggling with controlling the rage and doubt of their inner self need understanding not fear. They need empathy not intolerance. They need compassion not aversion.
There is nothing more rewarding in this life than making a positive difference in someone else’s, especially if that someone else is vulnerable, beleaguered by self-doubt, insecurity, self-loathing, paranoia. To see that someone smile and know that you’ve done that, it’s indescribable, beyond beautiful.
Each and every one of us struggles, whether it’s a personal conflict with confidence or self-esteem or the pressure and responsibility of family, finances …. work. But perhaps the greatest fear is borne of the need for acceptance and validation, to know that being you, just you, is ok so that the prejudice of judgement will never darken your day or dampen your spirit.
They say depression and anxiety is not a sign of weakness but a sign that you have been strong for far too long. So be careful when you see smiling faces, bouncing egos, a bold and confident stride. We all wear masks because we all have reason to, so judging a book by its cover goes both ways.
Just know that when you reach out to others you reach into yourself and when you give of yourself you give others the greatest gift of all.
by Steve Sharma