Today is World Mental Health Day. I suppose it’s natural for me to want to put out a post about it – I’m a trainee therapist with lived experiences of mental illness. I don’t think that mental health is something we should only speak about on one day of the year, but I do think it’s important that people do draw attention to it.
That being said, I have watched some of the discomfort on twitter today. There are those that feel triggered by the discussions or frustrated with the hypocrisy of those raising awareness (such as MPs who then vote to make cuts to the NHS). I hear that frustration. I respect that discomfort.
Just like mental health problems are experienced differently, our own feelings around ‘awareness’ are different. Mental illness is still stigmatised, and there are those in my own family that still don’t talk openly about it (despite the severe impacts of bipolar and accompanying medication issues on one side of the family). But as I have come to accept my own mental illness, I have felt more comfortable with being open. Not only about my struggles, but also about my strengths that have come from it. Furthermore, I heavily advocate for therapy for anyone who may be struggling.
Now I could give a whole life story about my mental illnesses. I understand there is a lot of debate about whether a diagnosis can perpetuate the issues. There are many who challenge the need for diagnosis and medication. I do not prescribe to the medical model, especially in therapy, but I do also value the medical professionals who have helped me, diagnosed me and provided me with tools to improve.
Maybe another post I will explore my own journey with mental illness, but in this one, I simply want to briefly say that I have experienced and been diagnosed with:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (which I discussed here)
- Suicidality (which I discussed here)
- Self Harm (which I discussed here)
Amongst other things. You’ll see that I’ve explored some of my experiences already. I still deal with these issues regularly, through a well managed support system, safety plan (which I think is important for almost any issue) and appropriate medial support and therapeutic support.
Lived experience is, in my view, important as a therapist. Whether it’s knowing someone with mental illness, through to experiencing it yourself. I think that’s quite often a reason someone turns to training as a therapist. I commend anyone who does this – it’s not an easy journey. I’m part way there myself, and it’s hard.
If you’re not a therapist, but instead a client (or potential client), then what I say to you is that Mental Health Day is everyday. You deserve therapy, everyone does. You can find appropriate therapists by looking up a relevant Membership Body. And if that therapist doesn’t work for you? Try another one.