Mental illness vs physical illness
Living with chronic illness has taught me many things over the years. One thing I’ve realised is that physical illness are taken much more seriously than mental illness. At times when I’ve been dealing with a flare or have been in hospital for my Crohn’s I have always been offered an overwhelming amount of love and support. People reaching out, friends setting up fundraisers, people offering to take me to appointments ect. I’ve always felt so supported and having that has made a world of difference in my ability to overcome the times that are really tough.
But what if it was something else I was dealing with? What if I had something like depression or bipolar, would I be getting the same kind of support? The answer to that question is sadly no. Mental health is not treated the same as physical health and I can’t seem to wrap my head around why.
My cousin deals with bipolar and it effects her daily. She deals with more than I could ever imagine and she is more open than most people but even she feels so embarrassed sometimes because of her mental health. This really breaks my heart because she should be offered the same kind of support I get when I’m sick. When I’m going through a flare I can’t leave bed, take a shower or even make food for myself, which are all things a person can find hard to do when they are severely depressed or dealing with other mental illnesses. So why then are people with mental illness not offered the same kind of support? Why are they told it’s all in their head, or why are they so often embarrassed or scared to open up about what they’re suffering with when more often than not it’s just as if not more debilitating than a physical illness.
Living with chronic illness is terrible, but at least I get breaks. I can be in a flare for weeks or even months, but I can also feel pretty good for a while too, that’s all part of the unpredictable life of having a chronic illness. But when you live with severe mental illness it’s something that effects your life every single day.
Having a chronic illness means you are very likely to end up with depression or anxiety at one time or another, it’s just inevitable. I have gone through times of deep depression when I’ve been really sick. There have been times when I didn’t want to go on anymore and was seriously thinking about ways to end my life. I’m so grateful that I’m in a better place now but It made me so empathetic to think of the people who have to live with that every day and don’t get help because there is so much stigma attached to mental illness.
Mental health support and treatment in this country is seriously lacking. There is also a culture in this country to “soldier on” and that men shouldn’t show their emotions because it’s a sign of weakness. This culture is one of the reasons my cousin Cameron committed suicide. He suffered from depression for years, he felt inadequate, constantly compared himself to his mates and it all got to him until he couldn’t take it any more. I can’t help but think if there was more support or if mental illness wasn’t so stigmatised maybe he would still be here. Maybe the thousands of people who kill themselves ever year would still be here.
I hope for a day that mental health is talked about like the common cold. When someone is asked “how are you” they can reply with “I’m really depressed and having suicidal thoughts” without it making the other person uncomfortable. I hope more people can speak up about their mental health and normalise it to break the stigma that has been attached to it for so long. So next time you see a friend or even a stranger and you think something is a little off with them, ask if they are OK. Simply talking to someone and letting them know you are there for them and genuinely care could save their life.
If you are depressed or having suicidal thoughts please reach out to someone or call LifeLine 131114