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Rethinking Mental Illness

Author: Callum Woodward


It is a shame that, even though issues with mental health are becoming more and more understood by people, there are still certain stigmas that need to be addressed.


How we look at people who are affected with mental health will need to change if we are to move towards a fully-inclusive society. A large part of that is stigma. Stigma may be seen as a mark of disgrace. It is associated with poor mental health, and has been for a long time, and it won’t change overnight. It is difficult when there are so many examples of stigma in social media, as well as in TV and film. Sometimes it’s clear that people just don’t understand mental health and will therefore misrepresent it, either accidentally or on purpose.


The steps required to break down the stigma attached to mental health are:


· to realise that mental health issues are just as important as someone’s physical health problems.


· to understand what someone is going through and to show them empathy would mean the absolute world to anyone who was suffering.


· to be proactive about challenging stigma. Some people might not understand that what they say may be harmful. They might think they’re being funny, but have a quiet word, as words are incredibly powerful and can inspire or cause harm.  


A powerful example of rethinking mental illness and getting involved is the story of Jonny Benjamin who, in 2008, tried to take his own life by jumping off Waterloo Bridge. Instead, he was talked down by a complete stranger. A person who didn’t even tell Jonny his name, but just wanted to help. Without knowing his name, Jonny nicknamed him ‘Mike’. Later, Jonny spoke about that day:


I wanted to let people know that it’s okay to have suicidal thoughts and feelings. I also hoped to show people that through talking about it, and by having someone else listen, it is possible to overcome the darkness that overwhelms a person when they feel helpless.


Jonny launched a campaign called ‘FindMike’ to find the person who talked him out of taking his own life. The campaign was picked up by a lot of high-profile people who shared it, resulting in the two men being reunited in a fortnight.  As it turns out, Mike was called Neil Laybourn.


When asked about the moment on the bridge, Neil said: “Maybe it was fate, it was easy to make a connection. There are people who would walk past and there are those who would have taken action. I am proud that I was in the crowd that took action.”


Being there for people can also be such a comfort for those suffering with mental health problems. If someone is having dark or scary thoughts, it can make all the difference in the world to have support from people, whether it is from a group of good friends who are fighting your corner, or a complete stranger.


If you have been affected by this article, and would like to enquire about therapy, please get in contact with the Lighthouse Psychotherapy Practice.

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