Wednesday, 12 March 2014
"Mental People Can't Read or Write"
When you're surrounded by people that are similar to yourself, you tend to find that everybody has similar attitudes and beliefs. Since I've been diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression, I have found myself surrounded by a community of very understanding people, many of whom have first hand experience of mental illness. It's easy to forget that the rest of the world isn't so knowledgeable on the subject.
At work I am currently working on a project where we are giving away a load of notepads and pens to local community groups. I was speaking to someone about it the other day, and told them how my company would be donating pads and pens to a mental health charity.
They said, 'That's a funny choice of groups you've chosen to give notepads and pens to.'
To which I was confused and replied 'Why's that?'
'Well, mental people, they don't really read and write, do they?'
I was so completely flabbergasted (sorry no other word that better describes my complete shock), that I didn't even know where to begin in dispelling that myth. I wish I had replied, because there is so much I wanted to say, but it caught me completely off guard. I didn't say anything, I was speechless. Our conversation ended right there, and I just carried on doing whatever it was I was doing. Needless to say they didn't know I have mental health issues.
I mean, are people really that ignorant? Do they imagine people in padded white cells in straight jackets? I can imagine others not understanding what goes on in people's minds to make them 'insane', but surely they don't truly believe that we can't READ AND WRITE?
The way this person said this remark was like this was common sense, or a well known fact about sufferers of mental health. Like, does the pope have a balcony? It wasn't their opinion, they didn't hate 'mental people' or believe that they shouldn't have pens and paper. They honestly believed we wouldn't need them.
I get on really well with this person. They're not a bad person and they're not trying to be ignorant. If they knew a loved one was suffering with mental health issues they'd probably do their utmost to help them. Yet, at this point in time, their only concept of mental illness is some strange Hollywood film character.
I'm not even offended by this belief. I don't despise them. I don't want to laugh at them. I'm completely shocked. What has society done that means people think this way?
This remark has made me realise how important the #TimeToTalk campaign really is. As a society we really need to have a greater universal understanding of what mental health is, because some people's ideas are wildly off the mark.
Has anybody else been subjected to such complete and utter ignorance?