Mental Health Awareness Day: Dignity in Mental Health

October 10 is World Mental Health Awareness Day and the theme this year is ‘Dignity in mental health – psychological and mental health first aid for all’.  As we celebrate Mental health awareness day today, remember, nobody is immuned to mental illness. Nobody chooses to be mentally ill. Mental illness can afworld-mental-health-dayfect anyone at any age or stage in life. The fact that mental illnesses are mostly not visible does not mean they are less serious than physical health issues.

Sadly, people who are diagnosed with mental illness are not often given the adequate treatment needed. Cuts in healthcare services are not helping matters as many are left without the necessary services they need to cope with mental illness. Also, many cases of mental illnesses remain undiagnosed because of lack of access to health care, stigmatisation and sometimes, outright denial due to shame and embarrassment.

It is sad that while we can easily access First Aid for physical health issues, same cannot be said for mental health crises. Many of us know how to provide First Aid to someone having a heart attack or who has suffered a physical injury, but not many of us have a clue what First Aid to render to someone suffering a mental health breakdown. Workplaces make sure to provide First Aid training for physical health issues, however, mental health crises are hardly provided for. It is high time we stopped this unnecessary discrimination. People can have mental health break down at workplaces, in the office, on the street, in a restaurant, virtually anywhere. We should endeavour to train more people in mental health first aid to provide first aid in such situations.

We could all do with improving our first aid skills especially as it relates to giving first aid in mental health related crises. We can all benefit from learning about giving first aid to people with Mental health issues. Here is a Mental Health First Aid booklet provided by World  Federation For Mental health .

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As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness day, it is important that we do our bit to stop stigmatising people living with mental illness. Kindly endeavour not to use ableist language which contributes to the stigmatisation of people living with mental health issues.

When you scream “Are you mad” or “You must be crazy” at someone you are angry with as an insult, you are inadvertently contributing to the continued stigmatisation of people living with mental health issues.

Nobody chooses to be ‘Mad’ or ‘Crazy’. These are acknowledged mental health conditions. Let us endeavour to stop using health conditions as insults. Calling someone ‘Mad’, ‘Crazy’ or ‘nuts’ as insults only further demeans and stigmatise people with mental illness. The fact that we have been using these words as insults for ages is not an excuse to continue using these ableist words. There are other ways we can express our anger or disgust at someone without resorting to degrading people with mental illness.

Clinical depression is a form of mental illness and depression is fast becoming a global crisis. The state of the world is enough to drive many of us into depression. These days, the news are all about man-made tragedies or natural disasters. Preventable deaths, suicides, wars, bombings, migrants drowning in the seas, high rise of unemployment, homelessness etc, are issues that are sending many of us into a state of clinical depression. Even a compulsory visit to the Jobcentre and having to put up with the constant degradation that many on welfare benefits are subjected to by Jobcentre staff and members of the public, are leaving many unemployed and underemployed people very depressed. We don’t know what people are dealing with, endeavour to be nice, even to strangers.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, but remember, there is nothing to be ashamed of. If you feel you are suffering from mental health issues, please get medical help where accessible. Mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Mental illness should not lead to loss of dignity.

Let us treat people with respect and dignity. Do not contribute to the dehumanisation of anyone. People living with downloadmental health issues are not less human; they deserve to be treated with respect and human dignity. Let us all be a vehicle for positive change in our society. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

Finally, remember, self-care is also important, especially for activists. It is OK to take a break. It is not selfish to take time out to take care of our mental and physical health. We can only give out what we have. Together, with the necessary care and tools, we can make the world a better place for all.

Bullies Are Not Born; They Are Made.

Our society is not doing enough to address bullying of vulnerable young people, especially young people with disabilities. I grew up in a society where even teachersstop-bully-logo laughed at and maltreated students who suffer from learning disabilities.

There was this particular case, which even decades later, still makes me furious. Whenever I hear of children with disabilities who are bullied by adults, I instantly think of this boy in my junior high school class in Nigeria, who was constantly bullied not just by students but by teachers too.

The boy, I think his name was ‘Jamiu’, was always falling asleep during class sessions. We were told or rather, there were rumours that the boy was bitten by Tsetse fly and as a result had ‘sleeping sickness’. For years, I was terrified of flies.  Obviously, the child suffered from some sort of sleeping disorder, and he constantly fell asleep in class.  Teachers told us to mock him for falling asleep during class sessions. Teachers made him stand in front of the class where he was humiliated with the whole class staring at him like a freak. Since it was our first year in high school, we were between the ages of 12 and 13, but it seems the boy was much older. He was also bigger than most of us in the class. However, I rarely heard him speak. He seemed to bear his constant humiliation with stoic fortitude.

This young boy had learning disabilities and did not perform well in class. He sat at the back of the class. Looking back now, it seems that young people who had learning disabilities were always sat at the back of the class. The ‘bright’ ones were always sat at the front rows, while those who did not perform well were pushed to the back seats. The further down you are, the lower you are in the hierarchy of ‘intelligence’.

I used to feel so sorry for the child but also I was terrified to go near him for fear of ‘catching’ this sleeping disease. I felt sorry for him because he could not have been [Read more…]

Avoiding Ableist or Sexist Language Won’t Make Us Less Fun!

I found this amazing campaign on a website and decided to share on my facebook wall.  As stated on the website , “The following are images from the “You Don’t Say?” Campaign out of Duke University. The premise of the campaign is to encourage people to think before speaking as the words one delivers can have negative implications that were never intended in the first place, especially to those around us.

These phrases are often said with harmless intent. But how do we really make those around us feel? Perhaps it’s time for us to actually think before we speak?”

 The images show different persons holding different signs  –

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When I posted this wonderful piece as my FB status update, I added-

 And I don’t say “Don’t be a retard” because it is Ableist . [Read more…]