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THREAD NOW CLOSED How do you feel about talking about mental health?

(103 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 24-Aug-11 09:34:36

Time to Change is "England's biggest ever attempt to end stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health problems". Mumsnet has been asked by Time to Change to find out how you feel about starting a conversation on mental health. The thread is open to everyone, regardless of their experiences with mental health.

Time to Change has released results to a new survey of adults which found that people often talk to their GP (26%) or partner (37%) first before going directly to a close family member, such as a parent or sibling.

They'd like to know what you think and about any experiences you may be able to share. Talking about mental health would include concerns you have about yourself and also about concerns you may have about family and friends.

We have some questions to get you thinking but they would welcome all comments and thoughts.

~ Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?

~ Would you find this difficult? Why?

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?

And if you can please do tell us your own experiences of this if you have any.

For more information you can also visit their facebook page.

SHuggett Wed 24-Aug-11 09:53:49

I have Bi Polar Disorder and find it very difficult to talk about it. My family would be the worst stigmatisers. I don't tell them anything. They would not understand or accept it. they would be very judgemental. I talk to my husband and my closest friends. But I don't talk about it much. I bottle a lot of it up. My friends are very supportive. The most support I get is through Family Intensive Support Services who I see because of my disabled son as well as for my own illness. If I was concerned about a family member or friend I would talk to them first.

practicallyimperfect Wed 24-Aug-11 09:57:11

I was diagnosed bipolar last year. My family have always been brilliantly supportive, my mum and sister talk openly to me, ask me questions. My dad not so much, but that is a personality thing. My dad and I generally talk about TV, ds, household things. I know he cares though.

My in-laws however don't know. I can't seem to tell them, and dh hasn't. I think it is partly stigma, I just don't know what they would do with the information. They are lovely people, but I find it hard to communicate with them as it is.

afishcalledmummy Wed 24-Aug-11 10:12:53

I had a breakdown a couple of years ago, following a very stressful period dealing with my very unreasonable mother, and some difficult work issues. I eventually told my mother about it a year later when she was insisting that I was particularly confident and I said I wasn't. Her response was "we'll have to agree to disagree" and then she didn't mention it again. My sister said she was furious that I had "dumped this on her as she had to deal with gypsies on a local common" (what the actual fuck)!! So I didn't speak to my family of origin about my MH issues as they were part of the problem, and they didn't take things seriously.

I think that pretty much everyone still stigmatises mental health. I recently retrained and was talking to a woman on the course and she asked why I'd left my previous role - I responded that I'd had a breakdown and the relief on her face was incredible as she had had one too, and hadn't felt that she could be open about it for worry of being judged. It's still a bit of a dirty little secret, that we can't admit to not being able to cope and having illnesses, whereas we're happy to talk about any physical issues we have.

When I was first ill, I spoke to my sister and DH who are the people I trust the most in the world, and then I spoke to my GP. It was more difficult speaking to my GP than it was talking to my sis and DH as I was telling someone who hadn't seen the spiral downwards, and as much as anything in telling him I was admitting that I had a problem, when talking to DH and sis was more saying that I was feeling a bit blue. He was, however, incredibly helpful and supportive and I am incredibly grateful to him and the team at the surgery for their support and help through that awful time.

If a friend/family member had a problem I would talk to them about it in the first instance - I think that going to talk to another person behind their back is a huge breach of trust over such a sensitive issue. I would probably draw upon my own experiences and tell them of the support there is out there and urge them to get help. I expect that had I sought help sooner, rather than tried to carry on being superwoman my episode would not have been as dramatic and would have been much shorter in duration. It would be difficult as one of the things I recall from being ill was that I hoped nobody could see it (and boy was I kidding myself, pictures from that time show me looking dreadful, detached and vacant) and I probably would have resented being helped.

I find it odd that the survey cites a partner as not being a close family member, whereas a parent or sibling is. Our partners are the people with whom we most closely share our lives, they are closer to us than parents (who may have known us as children, but not as adults) and siblings. Is the research of a younger age demographic?

ByThePowerOfGreyskull Wed 24-Aug-11 10:29:10

I didn't realise the depth of my mental health issues until 3 years ago.

I knew things were getting on top of me, then over the course of 48 hours as a result of a simple comment by a friend, I knew the only possible course of action for the benefit of all around me would be for me to kill myself.
My attempt failed, there was no relief, just sadness that this was another thing that I had failed to do. I was still totally clear that I would need to find a way to die.
It was all totally clearly thought out, calm, logical, no panic, not frantic. Only DH and I knew what was going on, and DH decided he needed support from our GP, who pressed the panic button and the psychiatric unit of the hospital got involved.
I really really didn't understand, what was the fuss about? It as very important for the benefit of my boys that I die and not be in their lives, why couldn't these other people see what was SO clear and true.

My friends and family were not part of the conversation. It was only a couple of months after my initial crisis that I saw my sister and I was amazed at her response. Why was she crying? I totally didn't get it!

Anyway, I am now not at all shy about talking about mental health, I am not better yet but I do now wish to be which is a start.

I think it is frightening for people to realise that someone near to them could think or feel very differently to them, it is the standard fear that is IMO the basis of most prejudice. I tend to be very open, if people ask me if I am free for a cuppa and it clashes with an appointment, I will say, "sorry seeing my therapist this morning" I don't tell them my life story, but I do hope that they see that someone who is in therapy can also (nearly) function on a day to day basis.

I also feel that we apologise too much for the natural emotions that we have. Sadness, anger, happiness, envy etc are all totally normal!! I find now I am much more likely to remind people that it is ok to be cross, sad etc, but to not let it fester. Acknowledgement of emotions somehow diffuses the negative ones heat and fire so it is less distructive.

We are quite a buttoned up society, and overall this has perhaps contributed to the lack of understanding (or percieved lack of understanding) surrounding mental health.

What an essay, much more to say but will stop for fear that you have fallen asleep.

noisytoys Wed 24-Aug-11 10:29:18

I had a breakdown last year. The climax of it was when I was taking my dd to her appointment (she is allergic to pretty much everything) and they insistes she didn't have an appointment, despite me having a text reminder to go. Anyway i lost control and trashed the waiting room. Completely out of character, then I curled up in a corner and cried in full view of all the patients. I was inconsolable and I was held down in full view of everyone and had diazepam forced down my neck and was held in the surgery for hours until it kicked in. I still hate going to the docs after that sad

I do talk to my mother about my anxiety issues and have been honest (but kind) about her involvement in making them worse years ago. She still finds it hard to understand, in spite of going through her own experiences currently since the breakdown of her marriage 3 years ago. She wants to "fix" me, I know, but I have to explain to her that's not how it works.
Likewise, my cousin suffers badly with depression, and her mum (my aunt, my mums sister) finds it hard to cope, also trying for quick fixes. It could be a generational thing or it could just be my family, but it makes it hard to just talk about things when your mother keeps trying to solve the problems. At least she has learned more about mental health through our talks.

At work I don't tell people about my anxiety issues unless I trust them implicitly. In our team there is one woman a few years older than me who has bi-polar disorder and while she is popular and liked, whenever she is off sick for as she calls them "episodes" the others on our team are vicious behind her back. I have heard and been shocked by this--these women call her a friend, yet show no sympathy or understanding to her when she struggles.

Talking about mental health is scary; you don't know how you're going to be judged or by whom. But it is something I feel strongly about. I feel that its only through bringing it into the open more that we can battle with the stigma.

BedHog Wed 24-Aug-11 10:44:02

I have been getting anxiety and depression related to pregnancy following past traumatic experiences. Hopefully this is temporary, but I have no problem talking about it with any of my friends, family or healthcare professionals.

I found it surprising how 'physical' the symptoms of mental health problems are, and how illogical - it's not really about rational thinking, it's more a condition of the emotions or soul, if that makes sense.

I found it a great help to talk to my friend who is bipolar, and now I feel I have a greater understanding and empathy for what she has to cope with. Previously I didn't really 'get' how a psychological condition could lead to her always being late and unreliable, putting herself at risk by walking home alone in the middle of the night, becoming obsessed by things or people, spending money when she couldn't afford it etc.

I would hope the stigma of most mental health issues is decreasing. Certainly I think bipolar, depression etc isn't seen in the way it once was. However I think the more 'unpredictable' conditions such as schizophrenia etc are still viewed with trepidation by a lot of society because they don't understand it and are nervous of possible consequences of interacting with people with the condition.

CMOTdibbler Wed 24-Aug-11 10:52:28

My dh had a breakdown in January due to extreme stress from work on top of a really bad year for us healthwise. His family have been totally shite tbh - they take the piss out of him being off work still, ask stupid questions, or basically ignore the whole issue. No support offered at all.
He talked to me first, then his GP (who has been amazing). Friends have found it hard to talk about as they just don't know what to say, and can't reconcile his cheery front vs the anxeity that wouldn't let him answer the phone at one point.

LaWeasel Wed 24-Aug-11 11:26:42

I don't have mental health problems in that I don't have a medical mental health problem but I have had therapy due to my mother never recognising her own mental health problems, which led to a very difficult childhood for both me and my sister.

My biggest frustration when it comes to mental health issues is that even though my mother's problems had a huge impact on us (she has undiagnosed but very obvious bi-polar, and because it was totally untreated could be violent, neglectful, get into debt very quickly, behave very unpredictably, suicidal, lying about almost everything etc) there was nothing we could do as it was considered 'her' problem, and unless she wanted to treat it - she doesn't believe in mental health problems, so of course she doesn't - there was no help available. I went as far as speaking to her GP and she just laughed it off and was believed that I was 'overreacting'. There is a strong diagnosed history of mental health problems in her family (schizphrenia, alcoholism etc) and she was abused as a child so it was hardly unlikely that she would have problems.

My partner, parents-in-law, friends etc were so supportive when I went to the NHS for some long over-due therapy about all of this. I was incredibly anxious and terrified about what my mother might do to my baby if she got near her. But I didn't feel I could speak to my family about it.

Some families have a real culture of 'just get on with it' and worse than ignoring the mental health problems of members of the families because of it it means the awful fall out from everyone being untreated gets ignored to.

Energumene Wed 24-Aug-11 11:27:14

Mental health has been a minefield for me. When things first started going downhill 13 years ago, I went to the GP, got anti-depressants, and then warned work I wasn't going to be able to work 13 hours a day any more. I spoke to my partner (now DH) about it at the time, but that was it. Some weeks later, I tried for the first time to kill myself, got unfairly dismissed from work for getting signed off sick for two weeks as a result, and the whole thing got worse.

Part of what made it worse was that DH needed support and, while I understood that and was fine with him talking to his parents in confidence about the situation, it all got blabbed to his very large extended family, and facing them when they knew the intimate details and gawked at me like some kind of freak show was awful. It took years for one of his cousins in particular to treat me like a normal human being again instead of acting like she was hoping for me to kick off and give her something to gossip about. It really did take years of saying nothing to them whatsoever about any kind of mental health issue for me to be treated as a fully functioning human being again. And the sense of betrayal I felt towards DH for being exposed to that really didn't help matters.

As it is, the mental health issues continued over the period in question, and I have had numerous battles trying to get appropriate treatment. Throughout this, I have been happy to talk to DH, Mum and my little bro, and occasionally Dad if he asked me a direct question, but that's it. I'll occasionally talk to friends or strangers about my experience if it is clear it will help them come to terms with their own mental health issues and feel less isolated, but I don't exactly go up to people and say 'Hi, I'm Energumene and I'm a nut job with a long-standing history of depression' because that would kill the conversation.

The absolute low in this was when I ended up with a NHS psychotherapist who enjoyed our sessions so much he apparently thought I was a stand-up trying out new material. I'm not all that unusual in using dark humour to help me face things, but he clearly didn't see his tears of laughter as inappropriate: I wasn't there to be his entertainment each week. I was there to get well, and should have been entitled to the same dignity and respect in my treatment as - say - a patient with a broken arm or heart trouble.

This same therapist also took an almost pornographic interest in the details of my being raped, and I reached the point where he became a part of the problem, rather than a means to helping me find the solution. I ended up needing a MIND advocate to help me convince the local Trust that I needed more suitable help and that I had valid concerns about my treatment that needed to be addressed: it's unfortunate, but I've found that the doctors treating people with mental health issues are often the first to forget that these patients are simply ill, rather than stupid or untruthful or simply not entitled to consideration of their right to be treated as a full human being.

I was very lucky that, as a result of the lobbying I did with my advocate, we got the Trust to agree to me getting a second opinion from someone in a neighbouring area, who completely understood why I needed to move and worked to make sure I got help from her department instead. Thanks to her, I'm about to start on a new course of therapy - CBT this time - and can finally see that I may one day be able to consider my depression to be something from the past, rather than a daily obstacle.

If I were to have this time over again, I would still talk to my GP and DH. I would talk to Mum. I'm now self-employed, so unless I sack myself, I don't have to worry about losing my job again, which is something that did untold harm back in 1998, and I hope I would be more willing to embrace therapy far earlier in the process.

Are families more stigmatising? I've had both extremes in mine. My own family, if we consider Mum and my brother, have been lovely, because all they want is for me to be happy and have been a godsend throughout. My father, on the other hand, seemed to feel tainted by association with someone who was prepared to admit her mental health problems. I can still remember having to 'voluntarily' spend a week on a psych ward that was just 10 minutes' drive from his office. He visited me once, stayed 10 minutes, and was practically running as he left. And he didn't have such a full social schedule that he couldn't afford the time. He simply couldn't cope, whether that was because he was ashamed of me, afraid of my illness, felt inadequate, or indeed felt I reflected badly on him and he couldn't afford to be seen in such a place. I'll never know the truth, because he's never given me an answer, and I doubt he ever will. I do wonder whether he thinks insanity is contagious, even though 'all' I suffered from was depression.

I have had to handle mental heath problems among family and friends, and these days I do tackle them directly, because I'm not afraid to expose my own past if it will help someone else. There needs to be something positive that comes out of this, and I think it's appropriate that such an awful experience should benefit someone.

blushingm Wed 24-Aug-11 11:41:12

i only ever talk honestly to my dh, my dad and 1 friend. I feel very uncomfortable discussing it with anyone including my psychiatrist or gp! I feel people would judge me - I even make sure no one sees me going to the mental health outpatients sad. I don't pick up prescriptions - I get my dh to do it.

I think people will think I am some how odd, unreliable/unpredictable, weak

SardineQueen Wed 24-Aug-11 11:42:02

I have suffered with anxiety and depression since my first pregnancy, it became unmanageable during my second pregnancy and I sought treatment.

~ Finding it hard to talk to families - my family are very much stiff upper lip, get on with it, don't be so silly types. As a result I have not told them about any of my difficulties. I have hinted a couple of times at my mum (I told her about the symtoms of a panic attack) and she said aggressively "HUH sounds like a panic attack" and walked off. I do not feel that they will be understanding or helpful if I tell them. From past experience I know I probably will tell them a few years after I have got better confused

~ Yes IMO family are the biggest stigmatisers

~ I speak to my DH first about mental health problems

~ I find it easy speaking to him although I feel sorry for him as it's worrying and upsetting for him

~ If I were concerned about the mental health of a family member or friend then I would speak to them about it (depending on what it was and how severe though I guess!). If it was so severe that I could not talk to them then I would probably seek help and advice on what to do on MN! smile

GiddyKips Wed 24-Aug-11 12:48:00

What does "a breakdown" actually mean? How do you know you've had one? I am on Zoloft for depression but nothing dramatic happened, just crying lethargy, social anxiety. When is it a "breakdown"?

SardineQueen Wed 24-Aug-11 12:50:21

Giddy I was recommended a book on here which was written in the 70s and was quite funny, it talked about "nervous breakdown" which is not something used in the medical profession any more AFAIK.

It probably means different things to different people, I expect.

According to the book I had a nervous breakdown which was quite shock

GiddyKips Wed 24-Aug-11 12:53:31

To answer the original question:

Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?
I've not experienced this. Family has been supportive

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?
Husband then GP

~ Would you find this difficult? Why?
No not at all. I was aware of the GP's tired intake of breath when I told him I was 'depressed'. I just told him to give me anti-d's and I'd be on my way. He was visibly relieved. Must be depressing for him to talk to depressives

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?
I'd speak to the person themselves. I wouldn't find it difficult. I wouldn't involve anyone else unless I thought they were going to harm someone else. If I thought that they were going to kill themselves I still wouldn't blab, privacy is privacy. People have a right to kill themselves if they so choose

GiddyKips Wed 24-Aug-11 12:57:12

Thanks SardineQ

Tee2072 Wed 24-Aug-11 12:57:52

I speak to anyone and everyone about my mental health issues. My GP, my family, the world wide web through my blog. I have clinical depression, anxiety disorder and borderline agoraphobia.

The only people who have ever stigmatized me for it were some collegues when it manifested itself as ante-natal depression and I was off work for part of my pregnancy. I recieved many snide comments about pregnancy not being an illness and the like. No, it's not. But depression and anxiety are.

I feel the more we discuss it the more accepted it will be, hence my never hiding my illnesses.

Giddy my breakdown was defined by the time I got in my car and started driving, long before I had a husband or a son. I left a message on my boss' answer phone that I quit and just took off. Luckily he didn't accept my resignation and instead managed to contact my family and get me some help. Luckily I had already stopped for the night and contacted my brother myself for help. I was trying to escape myself and my anxiety and depression. It didn't work! smile

SardineQueen Wed 24-Aug-11 13:06:27

I am quite open about it though.

Who knows:
My doctor
Both sets of neighbours. And the woman down the road.
My old workmates
My friends
Some of the builders in our house confused
I also suspect that DH's family have an idea about it as well

Basically everyone apart from my own family, which is sad TBH.

CMOTdibbler Wed 24-Aug-11 13:19:43

Giddy - for DH it was quite literally a breakdown. He'd been OK and then one day was on his way back from a site visit and sat in the car and said it was like suddenly his brain froze up and he was just overwhelmed with everything. He'd just run out of coping methods.

GiddyKips Wed 24-Aug-11 13:22:54

Here's something about 'breakdowns'

I don't know whether I had one. I remember being in work and my head getting very 'buzzy' and wandering down to the admin office and talking nine to the dozen and not being able to stop and then sort of going 'sorry, sorry, sorry' I think I was giving them a running commentry about what was going on inside my head.

My head still feels buzzy now and again and I can't always take in what's going on around me when I'm anxious.

madmouse Wed 24-Aug-11 14:02:42

I've had bad PTSD and struggle with anxiety and I've made it a kind of personal mission to be open about it. So many people struggle in silence saying that they are too scared to talk because there is so much stigma. But they don't realise that they are themselves keeping the stigma in tact.

It's easy for me though as my conditions are quite 'acceptable' - PTSD means something bad has happened to you - poor you. Whereas people with personality disorders and shizophrenia get treated like shit.

Must also say that talking to professionals has so far always resulted in me getting the help I needed.

madmouse Wed 24-Aug-11 14:05:44

gidykips I've heard it say that a breakdown is when you stop coping to such an extend that you no longer know how to make a cup of tea. Not sure how accurate it is though as it is indeed not a recognised medical condition. I think the key is a very rapid stopping of coping mechanisms.

NickettyNacketty Wed 24-Aug-11 14:24:23

I spoke first to my mum and my sister both of whom were very practical and supportive. My mother and I have discussed mental health many a time so I was aware that she would be receptive.
I then went to a GP who was also helpful. I simply asked him for ads and after questioning me he agreed.
Two old friends are able to talk openly about it but one is very apprehensive about the use of medication and seems to have some sort of predjudice.
The best support for me has been a newish friend who has also been on anti depressants and suffered from pnd in the past.
DP was slightly useless although he tries bless him. He goes around in circles about how worried he is about me and how concerned his mum is and his brother and my sil until I feel like some kind of freak to them.

ChildofIsis Wed 24-Aug-11 16:40:14

I suffered from a nervous breakdown 20 odd years ago followed by 3 years of deep depression. This was triggered by my Dad's death and my wedding all in one week.
My family weren't able to cope with/understand what was happening to me.

I've had the odd bought of depression since, fortunately not for long, however my mum was disappointed that 'I'd let myself become depressed' again. As if i'm able to control it, if only...

The GP was very helpfull. I found people in general to be more understanding when I was ill with it last year, than when I'd been ill years ago.
I think there is less stigma now, especially on the younger generations.

hairybob Wed 24-Aug-11 17:03:19

trying to recruit volunteers to work with people with long-term mental illnesses is nigh-on impossible. It's not pretty or trendy or glamourous or cosy sad

Some people are even uneasy with the fact that i work in mental health (perhaps it's catching. Or perhaps..y'know..maybe I'm a, y'know..bit, well, er, bonkers to want to work with ''people like them'' )
To me, it's the same as looking after your physical health. If you have a headache, you take paracetamol. or you talk to your gp. If you don't want to go out, you tell your friends you have a headache. they understand. they ask if you need anything. You shouldn't have to feel embarrassed or awkward or ashamed ffs.
Why people react differently to mental health is beyond me, but it is very distressing for all concerned.
When people are isolated socially, or stigmatised or prejudiced against, it's obviously going to make them feel worse.

On the other hand, when i first started working in the job I currently do, several friends came forward and 'admitted' to me they had been depressed, or on anti-depressants or had had post-natal depression or a family member had bi-polar etc. And I felt so sad they had not been able to share this with me - or our other friends - before.

Even within mental health circles, in my experience there seems to be some attitude that some illnesses seem more 'worthy' of support than others. sad

TheOriginalFAB Wed 24-Aug-11 18:20:53

I have found that even people with family members who have had depression, they still don't get it. They ask "what does she have to be depressed about?" I tried to email a tv programme that was on the other month as I was so annoyed when a panelist talked about how she decided not to take tablets and "would just get herself through" it. I think that in that case she probably didn't have full on clinical depression as I am sure of all of would just pull ourselves through it if we could.

pseudonomic Wed 24-Aug-11 19:46:57

About six weeks ago my husband had what I would call a breakdown. He became more and more depressed then one day decided he didn't want to live with us anymore. He later told me he was thinking about killing himself. For him it was a reactive depression over things he'd just swallowed down and not dealt with earlier on.

He would not seek professional help for fear of his job (in his profession the ability to make rational judgements is the only thing that matters and anything that is seen to compromise that invokes the axe) sad

It's been a hard slog, with counsellors but things are getting much better. We've both been through a lot. He feels ashamed that he got into that state but I think actually most people have bad times and just that because he'd had to hide everything he got worse and worse. And I think it's awful that people are so judgemental.

Having said I knew nothing about mental illness other than manic depression. So it was very hard for me to know what to expect.

I think wider families, particularly parents can easily stigmatise those suffering from mental illness. It's easy to say 'oh he's just going through a hard time' than actually acknowledge that someone might need more than just a stiff drink and a rest.

If I was having mental health problems myself, I don't know where I'd go. I know it wouldn't be my GP, they've been extraordinarily unhelpful when I have gone with physical problems, saying things like 'well you are a mum, you have to expect to be tired and have heavy periods' hmm Not inspiring.

I've heard anecdotally that in my area, you will not get access to a counsellor without a 12 week wait and you will only be referred if you are suicidal. Whereas I understood there was a six weekly session allotment provided everywhere in England.

I would like more information to be provided within schools on mental illness as well as physical illness. Perhaps to 15 year olds. After all, if 25% of them are going to become mentally ill at some point, it makes sense to familiarise them because if not them, then their friends, family, lovers etc..

debka Wed 24-Aug-11 19:59:45

My mum has secondary breast cancer which is terminal. She finds talking about the depression that accompanies it much much harder than talking about the disease itself. Mostly because people don't know how to deal with the information, but also because she feels embarrassed and ashamed.

violetwellies Wed 24-Aug-11 21:19:06

I went to my GP with a long list of physical symptoms & she told me that Id had 'what used to be called a breakdown', I then told my partner who as usual was good as gold.
My family (parents deceased) are not stigmatising. I don't think I told many of them as I wasn't really up to talking to folk, and they aren't really part of my life. Work were mostly fine apart from the dept manager, who if anything made things worse.
Id talk to the individual concerned if a friend or relation appeared to be struggling with mental health issues.

NickRobinsonsloveslave Wed 24-Aug-11 22:13:08

It's interesting that the majority of posters claim they would/ did confide in their DH first.

I have not even told mine I am on ADs....he thinks they are iron tablets!

I would never tell him as he just would not understand and would automatically say something crass like "pull yourself together".

The only person who knows about my depression is my GP. With family and friends I just put on my 'happy mask'. It's easier than letting them think I am weak and need drugs to keep on living.

Granny23 Wed 24-Aug-11 22:51:57

I mainly spoke to my sister and my best friend (whose daughter suffered chronic depression). They were supportive and understanding and both pointed me towards my GP, even offering to come with me. Now I would do the same for any family member or friend.

My DH did not 'get it' at all and insisted that I kept it all hidden from my DDs, who were at that time living/working away from home. I did eventually put them in the picture and they have been my main source of support since then.

The trigger that pushed me over the edge into the black pit was the death of my father - I no longer needed to stay strong for him - and being made redundant shortly after - I no longer needed to drag myself to work each day. Within a week or so I was trying to hide in cupboards, struggled to answer the phone, drive or leave the house alone.

Unfortunately, I had to find alternative employment asap, and for that reason could not broadcast my illness to the wider community. Employers might be reasonably supportive to an existing employee but are hardly likely to employ someone new who admits to mental illness on their CV.

hellsbells4 Wed 24-Aug-11 23:43:36

My mum and all her sisters are prone to depression/anxiety/OCD and other MH issues - as are their children, but for decades it was a taboo subject, and not something anyone in the family ever mentioned. My mum always felt very ashamed of her 'difficulties'.

I think I probably spoke to my gp first, then mum, (which is when I realised how prevalent it is in mum's family) then dh, and I think my dcs have both grown up knowing I take anti-dpressants. I don't see it as a big deal - so I don't think they do either.

However telling my FIL or MIL was just unthinkable (and I've known them for 30 years!) - until MIL developed depresssion herself a few years ago. She thought she was the first (and only) person in the world suffering.

As I get older (mid fifties) I find I can talk more and more openly about it, so there probably isn't anyone I know who doesn't know about my depression. I think most of my employees know too.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Thu 25-Aug-11 00:30:27

I think families have complex reactions to mental health problems are a variety of reasons
- they are often part of the problem, OR worried that they will be blamed
- if parents/ older generations they would be more likely to have the stigma of mental health foremost in their minds (over generalisation i know)
- families have a complex social structure which can be disturbed/ fractured by someone admitting to mh issues - depends on the family and the individuals role within it whether the family will be a support or a nightmare

for me, my family was definitely the cause, and as I have the role of the person that helps/ supports/ cushions others, there would be no room for me to be ill - mentally or physically actually.

To answer the questions:

I would speak to a friend or partner first, but would be part of an ongoing conversation as friends know my state of mind anyway

if a close friend seems depressed or mood swings or anxiety, panic attacks, ocd etc, i would definitely bring it up, but if it was something which still has alot of stigma around it, i'd be more indirect/ careful (for me that would be delusions, multiple personalities.. they still feel v stigmatised and would need care in talking about).

if it was family i wouldn't, as my parents think mh issues are a sign of weakness and talk about people they know of with them with puriant interest and disgust. they both definately have mh issues themselves btw, which accounts for the horror of it i suppose.

Ryma Thu 25-Aug-11 02:08:35

I had depression 4 years ago, it was very hard, until I went to see my doctor, who gave me antidepressants. But it was hard to talk to people, it was very hard, because nobody would understand me.

LawrieMarlow Thu 25-Aug-11 08:00:09

I have suffered from depression (which I have discovered happens when I haven't managed my anxiety effectively) for nearly 20 years. Have up and down periods and haven't needed ADs for nearly 2 years which is good.

I have never properly told my mum and dad - I think because I am pretty sure my mum has suffered from bouts of (I think undiagnosed) depression I don't want to sound like I am trying to steal her thunder or something equally daft. And because I am all right at the moment then there seems little point in talking about it.

Very few people know about it - when I was off work people knew but that was a while ago. H (DH then) knew about it. Right now I have been having some ups and downs due to H leaving and if I needed more support would see my GP (have made pre-emptive visits) but don't know what I would actually do if I felt incapable of caring for the children properly.

Ilythia Thu 25-Aug-11 08:51:32

I have found it interesting how many people have been diagnosed with depression but will only admit it when they realise I have too.

I want to answer the questions but will find it easier to answer them using my own experiences, so...

I was suffering from depression a number of years ago, not severely, I was able to cope day to day, but in hindsight I shoudl have seen someone earlier, it was not medicated until I witnessed a violent assault and then I was prescribed anti depressants after breaking down in the doctors. My family have all insisted on explaining to people that it is purely because of the attack that I saw, they do not believe that i was depressed before.
My friends and I had no experience of depression so while they were supportive, it was more of the 'lets go out to cheer you up' type than anything helpful. There was nothing at that time to tell people how to help others (pre internet)

My mother has had a rough couple fo years (divorce, office bullying, her mother dying) and I literally begged her to go and speak to a doctor as she started having panic attacks. My sisters were furious with me and insistant that she was not depressed and how dare I put such dangerous thoughts in her head.
They talked her out of going to the doctors.
'Luckily' she ended up going for another reason and broke down in the surgery and told the doctor everything, the doctor told her she was stressed and offered ad's but my mum changed her job/situation instead and is doing a bit better now.
The stigma of depression in my family is very bad, I am looked on (and told) that I was weak, and overreacting when I say I couldn't leave my flat for weeks. One of my sisters insists that depression isn't even real, which means that we do not talk about it.

As a result the only person I ever talk to about my mental health is my husband, he was my boyfriend when I was depressed before and can spot when I am going througha low patch before I do. He is the only person who has actually seen me having a panic attack and was one of the few people I allowedinto my flat so he is fully aware of what I was going through.

The stigma is bad though, even down to midwives asking if you have been depressed, you wonder whetehr to downplay it so they don't take the baby away or inform SS, and when going for a new job it has to be mentioned. I had to discuss it with a nurse recently before she woudl approve my new post. All of these things make me feel it is something 'strange' and 'not normal' and again less likely to discuss it with people.

F1lthym1ndedvixen Thu 25-Aug-11 09:59:23

I'm fairly willing to bet there are scores of posters who have not even looked at this thread because of the words 'mental health'.

I hate that there is such a stigma.

Debka - my MIL was the same with her breast cancer sad Even when i found her some specialist free counselling, she wouldn't, because she said her husband would never forgive her for ''giving in'' to it.

Several members of my family have history of depression. My sister in particular is very messed up because of things from the past. We are quite open as a family to talking about stuff. Though, as i am seen as 'the strong one' I actually don't talk to them when I am struggling (I don't think they even know that I struggle. I have never had or sought a diagnosis of depression, as I am able to self-manage my symptoms.
Everyone's ability to deal with stress is massively different, in the same way that different people have different pain thresholds. It's really important to recognise the feelings you have and be self aware, so you can do whatever helps you through the rough times. For some people this means ADs, for others talkign therapies, or looking after yourself in some other way.
It is very sad to see how many people are ashamed or feel it is a weakness or their 'fault'.

My DH had aperiod of depression which have was difficult to deal with as a family because of his unwillingness to talk about his feelings - with me, let alone a professional. He eventually agreed to some counselling but he didn't tell anyone else he was going or talk about it with friends.

And as for people with a long-term mental health illness like bi-polar or schizophrenia, or a Personality Disorder, i can't imagine how hard it must be thinking people are judging you or treating you differently, Surely life is hard enough already? I know it is fear. And perhaps people don't know what to say or are scared of saying the wrong thing?

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder last year after having a major depressive episode which included thoughts of suicide. It was a relief to at last understand why I had behaved the way I have for most of my life. I am now on medication and life is stable and good at last.

When I became depressed I couldn’t tell anyone and when it became so bad that I couldn’t leave the house I initially told my Team (I manage a team of 17 people) that I was off work with gastric problems. The first person I told was DH who was wonderful and got me to see my GP. My GP was also wonderful and has been an important part of my recovery.

I thought a lot about who to tell. I had to tell my DD. She was great. She is 18 and her favorite teacher also is Bipolar so she could see that someone with this condition can have a relatively normal life if effectively medicated. She also had someone to talk to and I know that she had many conversations with him which helped. She also told her friends and one of them who is studying psychology likes to have conversations with me about it! I also told my parents. They have been supportive although my Dad doesn’t like to talk about it but he’s bit like that anyway. My Mum has said that it explains much of my behavior when I was younger and is always telling me about which celebrity has it or if she has read or watched something about it.

I told my boss who has been great and very supportive. I also told my Team as I felt it was important that they had an explanation for how I behaved and that I may sometime be unwell. They have also been great and very supportive as have my close friends a number of whom work in mental heath related areas. I have been really lucky with the people around me as I have not any negative reactions in those I am close to.

That’s not to say that I have no negative reactions. I did tell someone at work who has a responsibility for staff wellbeing about my condition and since then whenever I see him he tries not to catch my eye and give me really odd looks!

My concern is that bipolar has almost a glamorous image due to the high number if celebrities which claim to have it. It’s almost the acceptable mental health condition to have. I often wonder if the people I know would have been as supportive if I had been schizophrenic or have a personality disorder. This is not to diminish the awful effect that bipolar has on your life but just how I feel.

Maryz Thu 25-Aug-11 12:33:28

I think it is very difficult to talk about mh issues, and even more difficult to get help. I have suffered from depression in the past, and been afraid to ask for help for fear it would affect other aspects of my life (we were hoping to adopt, I had a not very understanding boss, etc).

Now my son suffers from depression, has a diagnosis of Asperger's, is possibly bi-polar, and self-medicates with cannabis. But no-one understands the underlying issues, they just see the drug addict sad.

We took him to the gp when he was younger, but they refused to give him anti-depressants because he was too young. Now they refuse to treat him because he is an addict. He can't get onto a treatment program for his addiction until he is clean hmm, he can't get clean because when he stops using the anxiety/depression/psychosis returns in full force.

And the paranoia makes him reluctant to go to talk to someone, because he thinks we all want to lock him up because he is weird.

He is 17, and I suspect is facing a lifetime of this.

The rest of the family suffers too. Quite apart from stress and violence at hom, and the drug issues, many people I have known for a long time refuse to talk to me because my son is an addict (and I am by definition a bad parent). Parents and teachers expect my younger children to go the same way, and both dd and ds2 put up with a lot of negative comment (both are fiercely defensive of ds1 and won't allow criticism of him - they recognise that he is sad, not bad).

My family know and are supportive (but still don't realise why he doesn't just accept help), dh's family would not understand at all.

I sometimes wish he had a more recognisable "disease", a physical illness where I could take him to a doctor who would treat him. And even if that treatment didn't work, at least he would know that we were trying to help, not trying to ruin his life (which he has pretty much ruined for himself, as a result of his issues).

He has friends who have committed suicide, I think he often thinks that they have had the right idea sad.

cheesesarnie Thu 25-Aug-11 12:44:59

i wish people would talk more about mental dad tried to commit suicide about a year ago.when he was in the unit he wanted everyone to know where he was and why.he didnt want to feel ashamed and nor did we.
~ Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?
no,its the naive people who stigmatise it.having it in the family means your more likely to know more.

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?
the gp and friends/family.

~ Would you find this difficult? Why?
yes probably.

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?
same as im not sure id find it hard,im too terrified of it getting so bad again that i could one day lose him.

nickschick Thu 25-Aug-11 14:10:46

~ Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

**I am of the believe that 'team work' can help mental health when its not just you looking after you and you have others to care about you -it makes it easier - this is why I believe groups like the AA and indeed weightwatchers are so succesful.

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?

** It depends on the way they address it - people with mental health arent fragile or ill they need support to live with their issues- sometimes its seen as a weakness and sometimes its ignored - families do play a huge part in the succesful living with mental health problems.

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?

**honestly??? here on mumsnet.

~ Would you find this difficult? Why?

**no mumsnet is packed with people who are 'friends' some are straightalkers some dress things up niceley some may accuse you of being a troll but somewhere someone will be there for you.

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?

**Id speak to someone who knew that person as well as I did and then hopefully we could work towards a solution be that more support or seeking medical help.
I wouldnt find this difficult practically as I see mental health as an illness like measles or chickenpox,I would find it difficult to see a family member or friend become trapped in mental health issues like alzheimers.

And if you can please do tell us your own experiences of this if you have any.

I have ptsd because of my traumatic childhood,its not something I want to have I cant change my childhood I simply have to live with those consequences- recently I became v aware that the coping mechanisms I have to deal with this that arent 'normal' and have now been told I have OCD ....i just live with it.

PerryCombover Thu 25-Aug-11 15:05:34

~ Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

There is such a lack of understanding about mental health issues. From my own experience people don't want to make anything worse and are often frightened into inactivity. We aren't far away, in terms of time and understanding, from people being sent to asylums and that is frightening for most. People can be incredibly judgemental if a diagnosis doesn't fit their understanding of an illness. Therefore people suffering from bipolar disorder can be seen as "putting it on" ditto depression or a panic disorder.

If we expect people to better understand their own and other's mental health we need to teach it at school as a class in the way that we teach P.E.

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?

In my experience workplaces are the biggest stigmatisers. When our FD went into a psychiatric care facility our company alluded to his having cancer as it would be easier for him to "show his face" when he got better. Lots of men and women try to hide strong symptoms of depression rather than admit or seek help as they know they will be held back by it in future promotions.
I have been part of a boardroom discussion where a MD has claimed someone didn't have the marbles for a bigger job. He meant, had suffered from depression.

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?

I'd speak with my GP

~ Would you find this difficult? Why?

No of course not. He is the gateway to other services that I might require.

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why

I would address it with the person concerned unless I saw some fairly obvious signs of paranoia or psychosis. I would have no issue with this at all.

buterflies Thu 25-Aug-11 19:05:35

I have suffered from depression and anxiety since around 12 yr old. At that age I was dismissed as being a problem child! I made a suicide attempt (well more of a cry for help) at 16 and I felt so alone. It wasnt something I could talk to other people about at the time.

Through it all my mum was the person who pulled me through and is still the first person I talk to when I feel myself getting down.

Work know about my problems, its a small team that I work in and tbh they dont really understand but I dont care, I feel that the more people who know that mental illness exists and suffers can be (almost) normal the better.

I would say all my friends know that I have depression, however it isnt often mentioned other than if I am down I might say I am not at my best. I think most of my friends are embarrassed talking about mental illness.

I am pregnant and on medication for depression, I feel that I cant really tell anyone as they wouldnt understand the need for me to stay on meds whilst pregnant.

"Oh surely baby is more important, you only have to be off them for a few months" was one of the comments I got.

Well of course baby is very important, but so is having a mother that is well. I tried to cut the dosage down too quickly and within a week I wasnt coping, not eating and wanted to die, not good at all.

I personally dont think there is enough support for people with mental health issues.

bigun1 Thu 25-Aug-11 20:01:00

I had PND, self diagnosed and my GP went along with me. I just knew even though it was 3 years after i had given birth. I hadnt acnowledged that there was anything wrong in all that time.

I knew i was right because i went onto AD's for the first time in my life and within 2-3 weeks, i was back to my normal self again.

I told no one.
I was embarrased. I was adamant that i was completely and utterly exhausted as my child didnt sleep through a complete night till he was 5 and at school, and i was working too. Not depressed just tired and overwhelmed by the task in hand..being a mum for the first time.

Anyhow, when i came off the AD's i told every one, even people at work as i wasnt sure of how i would be and needed understanding...they were fantastic with me and very understanding.
That was 4 years ago and i have been fine since.

zippy539 Thu 25-Aug-11 21:05:08

Context: Dh has chronic depression and I have a mild anxiety disorder (it flares up now and again but I don't see it as a huge deal).

Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

I encouraged DH to tell his parents. We have regretted it ever since - they are constantly fretting, watching him sideways for 'signs', trying to 'cheer him up' - even when he's well. It's incredibly irritating and makes him feel worse. My parents are unaware of DH's issues - though I'm sure they think he's acting out of character at times but they'd never raise it. Everyone and their mother knows about my (much more minor issues) - possibly because I regularly make entertaining stories out of my more anxious exploits. So in answer to the question - I don't know. I feel better for people knowing my issues and have found them supportive but the experience with DH's parents makes me hesitate to advocate complete disclosure all the time. Of course if people were better educated about the issues then talking opening might be less of an issue.I found MIL and PIL's level of ignorance re depression quite astounding especially as PIL suffered it himself for years.

In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?

IMO - yes, along with employers. Families tend to take MH issues personally 'well I don't know who you've got it off - mind you Uncle X was always a bit odd...'

Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?

Dh, friends and GP. In that order.

Would you find this difficult? Why?

No - not particularly. But I wouldn't have any great hope that my GP would be massively helpful - much more training needed.

zippy539 Thu 25-Aug-11 21:11:31

Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?

Sorry - forgot this one. I would speak to the person concerned and I don't think I'd find it too difficult. I know so many people who have had temporary or long-term MH issues that I have ceased to find it unusual. NB these are people who I met in the course of regular life/work not in any MH situation/support group.

Can I also put in a final plea for support for partners/families of people with MH issues. I have been through some V scary times with DH and would have jumped at any kind of support/contact. There was none to be had.

Besom Thu 25-Aug-11 22:21:45

The place I've talked most openly about having PND is on mumsnet. Because it's fairly anonymous. In other areas of my life it's very important to me to be seen as competent and able - someone who copes under pressure. If anything I stigmatise myself.

I do speak to close friends about it now it is over and after the fact. I didn't really confide in them at the time. Not because of how they would have reacted, they would have been understanding. But role I cast myself in didn't tally with what was happening to me, so I couldn't allow my friends to see that. The first people I talked to were some random internet forum users who persuaded me to go to the gp. I did tell my dad but he played it down and said "you don't seem depressed to me". I mentioned it again quite recenlty and he goes "I don't remember you being depressed".

Empusa Fri 26-Aug-11 16:36:35

Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

There's still a lot of shame attached, and this idea that people with mental health problems either
a) need to pull themselves together
b) be locked up out of sight sad

It definitely needs to be talked about more.

In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?
In my experience, the older members of families tend to be. As they are of the generation where they just didn;t talk about it, therefore they believe it never existed.

Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?
Friends. Having friends who suffer from mental health issues means I am biased though.

Would you find this difficult? Why?
No, I do find talking to health care professionals about it difficult though. They are often dismissive, or will focus in on one issue, ignoring the larger issues. I also spent 12 years on anti-depressants with no offers of any other help, no matter how often I asked. It seems to be rare to find a doctor who knows enough to be able to offer any real help. Plus I know from talking to some of my doctors, that they are discouraged from sending patients to counselling because of the cost sad

Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?
Mind, or another charity. I'd find it difficult as I know there isn't much they can do, and are stretched thin as it is.

ButteryPie Fri 26-Aug-11 20:20:30

I've got to the point now where I think that having this illness is hard enough, I'm not going to go to great lengths to hide it from people too. I do come across this idea that mental illness is something you shouldn't talk about - I had bad SPD, which was physically crippling, but in myself I was fine, I was just unable to walk. People were more than happy to talk to me about that, tell me stories of when they had leg injuries, make jokes about the wheelchair being like a pram, the whole not being able to part my legs/if I'd have had that problem to start with I wouldn't be in this mess etc.

As soon as I refer to not feeling well with my bipolar, people look awkward and shuffle. They can kind of understand depression, especially if I let them assume it is pnd, but the mania is just completely impossible to talk to people about, unless I feel like basically educating them from scratch. I get very annoyed at people thinking it is basically part time depression too.

I do find it is easier to talk about medicinal side effects - eg if I was feeling bad and needed someone to watch the kids, I might say that the doctor has put me on new pills and they are making me feel really woozy. Kind of admitting that I'm ill and the doctor has been concerned, but without embarrassing them.

Very sick of people thinking it is possible to just pull yourself together as well. Once, when I was pretty ill with psychosis, a friend tried to persuade me to start hiding my medication, because "they" only wanted to curtail my creativity, and that I should just be free and paint or something. I think that, if you have never experienced mental illness to any degree, you assume it is just a bit more extreme versions of the emotions you have had, when in fact it can be a whole new ball game.

Empusa Fri 26-Aug-11 20:22:27

"As soon as I refer to not feeling well with my bipolar, people look awkward and shuffle. They can kind of understand depression, especially if I let them assume it is pnd, but the mania is just completely impossible to talk to people about, unless I feel like basically educating them from scratch. "

That's true. I find I'll avoid mentioning MH problems due to just not having the energy to spend explaining them.

ButteryPie Fri 26-Aug-11 20:34:24

I find it quite hard to explain how sometimes I can be running about, staying up late, getting up early, doing loads of housework and studying and wearing full make up, being wildly creative, chattering away to anyone ten to the dozen and so on, and that is the point when DH will basically have to cut back all overtime and keep me in the house because they are the warning signs of a relapse, when people assume that the only thing we need to worry about is me being miserable.

Or worse, people telling me that I should go out for nighttime walks or nights in the pub, or drink loads of coffee and excercise loads, or do "out of body" visualisations and so on, and when I say that I can't because they are all things that put me at risk, they basically try to chivvy me along. Even when they know full well that I get awful manias and have spent years getting to know what puts me at risk, they still do this when I say I'm having a few quiet days to head one off. More of this thinking that mental illness is all depression, and that depression is basically feeling down in the dumps. It's not and it's not.

~ Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

Our families have their own mental health problems and either think we are being overly dramatic, blaming them or just outright lying about a diagnosis/problem. It should be talked about more openly as these mental health conditions can actually be present in perfectly ordinary people who funtion reasonably well in life. They need support and encouragement and a listening ear - not hiding away or disbelieved.

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?

The workplace is actually a big problem. I find there is still a stigma attached to mental illness when you have a profesisonal job there is an expectation that your mind needs to be in perfect condition. In our personal experience our families have been in denial about mental health problems and unwilling to discuss. The media is also a big stigmatiser.

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?

My GP and private psychiatrist. I feel I wouldnt get anywhere on the NHS - I would be told to wait 6 months and then see a counsellor rather than someone more qualified. I also think the NHS will only diagnose you if you are about to stab someone or jump off a cliff. They are quick to hand out amitriptyline to anyone that wants it but not to diagnose conditions and get to the root of the problems.

~ Would you find this difficult? Why? I did not find this difficult although I was a little emotional.

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?

I would speak to the friend of relative in question first.

In the past I have spoken to the doctors and support workers of family. I found this difficult as I felt disloyal to my relative and the service told her I was intrumental in them assessing her for sectioning as her nearest relative.

I also speak to my DHs psychiatrist and could email him if concerned. I have spoken to relatives when concerned about other relatives but did not get a supportive welcome.

I have used the support services of RETHINK and MIND. Both have had excellent advice.

Empusa Fri 26-Aug-11 20:39:30

"or drink loads of coffee and excercise loads"

shock How stupid can people be?

But yes, there is this idea that all MH issues are depression. Which is strange, considering depression is so often written off as not being much. I guess it's easier to dismiss mental illness that way, doesn't seem so scary.

People who haven't had depression don;t find it scary, so it's easier for them to think about. Mania etc is scary, so they'd rather pretend it doesn't exist rather than face the scary thought it could happen.

startAfire Fri 26-Aug-11 20:54:54

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Empusa Fri 26-Aug-11 21:26:20

"another thing i've noticed is that mental illness may be 'in the family' but the person seeking help and being treated may be the only person who has admitted it and done something about it. others may still be in denial or seeing as just the way they are etc. one person admitting to illness puts the spotlight on others to examine their own problems."


EssexVic Fri 26-Aug-11 21:35:54

i have had several long periods of depression since I was 13, normally not triggered by anything in particular, infact normally when things are going well, the worst "episode" about 7 years ago when i was unable to leave the house, and extremly paranoid when i realised people actually knew what was wrong with me, a very dark period in my life when i felt unabel to discuss how i felt with ANYONE except a virtual stranger who was a neighbour, and even when my family realised i was actually suffering a breakdown, they found it hard to accept, let alone offering a freindly ear! Fortunatley since then my older sister in particular has become very good a spotting the signs of a dip, and even took me to my GP herself when she felt the beginnings my recent episode, teh difficulty i now find is my GP dismissing my mental health as some sort of delayed post nantal depression despite having a very long and checkered mental health past! (not that im say post natal depression isnt as important). Saying that i still have not informed anyone other than my OH and a few very close friends that I am in deed having a hard time of things again, especially nopt my dad as I do have a tendancey for sufferign from the paranoia of people knowing which only adds to my ever buildign anxiety!!!!

LaWeasel Fri 26-Aug-11 21:55:46

I just wanted to come back and say that IMO the reason a lot of people don't tell their families is because their families are part of the problem.

Obviously, it's different if you have a purely chemical mental health problem - but most people I have met with issues seem to be at least a mix of chemical with some circumstance thrown in.

I'm not sure how exactly I would have gone to my mum and said "The NHS has put me in therapy to deal with the child abuse I suffered. Which was your behaviour by the way."

- I spoke to my husband and friends, and eventually my dad and sister. My family understand the least, because it is much more difficult for them to accept that the way we grew up was wrong.

I wish, wish, wish so much that there had been more help available for my mum, I wish that I could have referred her as a kid. My life could have been so different and so could hers.

Maryz Fri 26-Aug-11 22:11:53

I absolutely agree with the others, both about the fact that often only some people in a family seek help, and are looked on as "odd" by others in the family who should be seeking help and are in denial both about their own mh and about family dynamic issues.

And also in relation to family dynamics - sometimes other family members are the cause of the issues, either by their actions or by their inaction, sometimes deliberate, sometimes due to circumstance. In addition, there can be hereditary issues, so there can be implied fault as well as huge chunks of guilt, sometimes deserved, sometimes not. In any event it can be very difficult to talk to family members.

If that makes sense.

ButteryPie Fri 26-Aug-11 22:34:26

I always remember my mum being reluctant to encourage me to seek out help because 'they might ask questions about our family'

Afaik, our family was and is totally straightforward! I think she just assumed that there would be accusations and she is a mental health nurse herself!

cadelaide Sat 27-Aug-11 00:09:40

My XP suffers from mental illness. He first started showing symptoms in the early nineties and I was pretty clueless about where to go for help.

Family and friends were sympathetic but had no experience and were wary.

His GP said "nothing we can do till he hurts himself or others", I was beside myself with worry and just didn't know where to turn. He ended up commiting arson and was sent to prison, after some months he was transferred to a secure hospital.

Reading over this I am shocked and still so, so saddened. The most common reaction he/we encountered was fear, I was frightened, but no-one could have been as frightened as he was. You could see it in his eyes.

It was such a long time before he received proper treatment and he has never fully recovered. I wonder whether, if I'd been aware of how/where to get help, things may have turned out better for him?

I've moved on (lucky, lucky me) and I just hope things have improved in the last 15 years.

changeforthebetter Sat 27-Aug-11 08:18:05

No, my family were very supportive. Depression is rife in our family but the key is that it has been treated in this generation. Someone else mentioned being brought up by a depressed parent and the negative effect that can have. I was brought up by two loving but depressed people. However, time and CBT have made all the difference.

On both occasions that I felt I was really depressed I approached my GP. The first time was after hearing an item on Radio 4 <<middle-aged, middle class emoticon grin>> Depression is often a hidden and shameful subject for sufferers. Hearing it discussed as a medical issue gave me the confidence to seek (successful) treatment. That said, medical professionals are very limited in what they can offer - basically just tablets and possibly a short course of CBT-based therapy. I was lucky to be a student at the time and was offered a longer course of counselling via my institution (no longer available due to funding cuts). It made a world of difference to me.

I know someone who I am sure is suffering from severe anxiety and depression at the moment but she has pushed me away when I have even begun to raise the topic that she is "not herself". She is a "coper" and works in an environment where mental health just isn't even admissible as a topic of discussion (banking sector). She has been scathing about mental health issues herself seeing it as a character flaw which makes me fearful that she will not look for help.

What makes me most annoyed is employers' attitudes to depression. I have twice been hauled over the coals by ill-informed, poorly-trained junior occupational health staff who seemed to see the presence of "depression" on a health form as a threat to the safety of co-workers hmm Two episodes of reactive depression many years ago, in which I initiated diagnosis and willingly accepted treatment suggests to me someone with a keen awareness of her own mental health. One in four women suffer from depression and it is quite possible that more than one of those OHAs will be among that number!

WorzselMummage Sat 27-Aug-11 08:25:09

I feel fine talking about it. I'm generally a very open person and thus all my friends and family know all about my post traumatic nuttiness. I've had mostly great support from everyone except my Dad who seemed to think I could combat my crippling panic attacks with the power of positive thinking and that was disappointing but his own dad was (manic depressive) bi polar in the 70s when the stigma was much worse so he'd ready had a bad experience with mental health issues. Labelling what was happening to me as something other than mental illness was emotional protection for him I think. My mum was great but didn't really 'get it'. My most support came fro other people who had been through it themselves.

Talking really helped me,I can only imagine that bottling it all up would have magnified the awfulness of it massively, it sends shivers down my spine thinking about going through that unsupported sad support is the key with mental health issues.

lolaflores Sat 27-Aug-11 08:26:02

I find it still a stigma. I would not reveal it on a cv. My family and close friends are the only people aware of it. My family do not deal very well with it, perhaps because I don't deal well with it. I am Irish and mental health problems are a huge taboo in Irish society. Perhaps it is more to do with my inability accept my diagnosis, but all I want is to go about my life without having to refer to the state of my mind. My bipolar does affect how I see life and how able I am to deal with it, but just because I have a diagnosis that is not allowed to be one of those things. A diagnosis moves everything into another category and once you are in there, it is nigh on impossible to move back.

Empusa Sat 27-Aug-11 10:25:04

I had one employer tell me that I wouldn't have been hired if he'd known about my depression.

(It was retail, and I was their top seller, and the customers loved me - it rarely affected my work, I'd just had one very bad day)

I have been very open about my MH issues. Everyone at work, family, friends and Mumsnet knows. I refuse to be ashamed of my condition.

busybee1983 Sun 28-Aug-11 09:09:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

misdee Sun 28-Aug-11 16:22:40

~ Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

i do talk openly to my family, but at the same time i feel like i'm letting them down

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?

maybe for some, but not for me

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?

this time, my dh and HV, then the GP

~ Would you find this difficult? Why?
taking the first step was hard. but i knew i needed help

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?

i try and speak to them directly to see if they will talk. if they wont, then speak to their partner/parents/siblings.

I have suffered from PND on and off for 11years+. my biggest slide recently was after the birth of my first son this year. I am still recovering and envisage this being a very long road this time, as was very depressed. i am still medicated, and struggling a lot. i have been attending an pnd support group which has been good as dont feel so alone.

some days i feel so exhausted by it all, and just want to give up. i actually dont remember much of ds's early days and i hate that it has robbed me of that.

MissBetsyTrotwood Sun 28-Aug-11 22:13:59

Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

My family was the problem, that's why we don't really talk about it. I speak to DH, particularly since starting therapy and that is amazing. My mum has been dreadful and thinks that my poor mental health is a bit of a joke. I think it's a defence mechanism for her; deep down she knows that her management of what was a very traumatic situation for me and my brother was not right, through no fault of her own. For many of older generations that I know, the 'stiff upper lip' attitude prevails and that's definitely the case for her.

In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?
Yes. See above!

Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?
DH, a few friends, my MIL, my GP, my therapist. One GP in particular, not just any old doctor at the practice.

Would you find this difficult? Why?
Not now because I have a diagnosis for what is at the root of my anxiety and depression and it has a name. I'm not alone and I'm not the freak I thought I was because if it's got a name, it's an actual thing I'm suffering from, not just hysteria! And, actually, when I tell people they're surprised because I do such a good cover up job. Also, they're really interested to hear the ins and outs of therapy and my crazy symptoms. grin

Jackstini Mon 29-Aug-11 10:12:01

~ Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Because it is not an issue talked about often. Also because often it is not physically obvious, even though it IS a physical condition
Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue? Yes

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers? No

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health? Doctor

~ Would you find this difficult? Yes
Why? I think coming to terms with it happening to you would be harder than with others

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Other family.
Would you find this difficult? Yes/No Why?
Yes - knowing they were uncomfortable discussing it at first, No - as I feel ok about discussing anything with them and would want to let them know

And if you can please do tell us your own experiences of this if you have any.
A member of my step-family has recently been sectioned after some years of little problems getting bigger and bigger resulting in a diagnosis. I talk to my Dad about it often and hope he feels he can talk freely to me. However my step-mum is finding it very difficult and I just wish I knew what to do to help her.

Petesmum Mon 29-Aug-11 18:25:29

I had PND for 4 years, my step mum is bi-polar & my sister suffers from depression.
As a family we're all pretty open with our conditions & how we feel. Thou my poor dad is far from comfortable with the entire topic of mental health issues but he tries.

Personally I try to be open & honest of my experiences with work colleagues as possible as many are surprised that I'd suffered. Colleagues seem to think that PND only strikes mothers with something serious to worry about eg financial worries. In my own small way I try to highlight to them that I had nothing whatsoever to be depressed about on paper but it didn't stop me (at my worst) considering how to end it all.

Mental health problems are still topics that many avoid mainly because they don't understand them. It also hard for people to understand the impact of these conditions as there's nothing external to see. If you're missing a leg there's something to see, a constant reminder & something easier for people to understand. More publicity is needed

notlettingthefearshow Mon 29-Aug-11 22:57:40

People find it eay to talk about if it's no one close to them. I agree family are the worst, perhaps because no one wants to think it could be in their genetics.

I must admit I find it hard to deal with my brother's depression. I am pregnant and I think I am terrified my baby will turn out like him - not just for that, but for many other reasons. I do feel guilty and feel like I don't love him enough.

I was depressed, I think, in my teen years and early twenties, but managed to make myself happier by doing things that built my confidence. I'm in my thirties now and feel that is a long way behind me. I do feel lucky I've been able to manage it, whereas my brother has got worse and is now on medication. But perhaps I was not as bad as him as I could control it and overcome it. I don't know why I can't be more sympathetic.

yellowraincoat Tue 30-Aug-11 02:22:03

I have bpd. I talk to my partner about, mention it to friends but not details. Spoke about with my mother, she says i don't have bpd, so i dont speak about it now.

Udecide Tue 30-Aug-11 10:28:41

This is a great thread!! we need to discuss mental health issues more, I myself have suffered with bouts of depression and have a family member with Bi-polar disorder. Docs here in Northern Ireland are next to useless and say things like we've been here before you'll get out of it, Which is not at all helpful, and even specific mental health teams are that overstretched they "don't have time" to get around everyone. I think there is still quite a stigma to mental illness in Northern Ireland with an attitude of if I can't see that you are ill then you are not ill. It's a shame but thats the reality we live with here as a lot of people are "slipping through the net" and as a result the suicide rate is really high especially in the younger age groups, OUr goverment needs to make a serious investment in this area especially now as financial pressures are taking hold of so many, But as per usual the invisible will never be seensad

desperateoldie67 Tue 30-Aug-11 14:15:38

I have bipolar disorder and bpd and have struggled with both most of my life. I was only diagnosed in 2008 and have been on medication ever since. My medication stopped working earlier this year and I'm currently under review with my local psych team.

My previous employers were OK and quite supportive when I told them, but I was terrified to do so. I'd been working there for around 5 years when I was diagnosed, so I think they were too scared of the DDA to be unpleasant about it.

I did go for an interview when I first moved to where I'm now living, and I disclosed and all of a sudden (even though I was the best applicant for the job and the interview had been going well), they 'glazed over' and I knew I was out of the running. I'd never disclose in future unless I was asked outright.

To the questions:

Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

I think, as many people have said, families find it hard to deal with mental illness in their midst, and parents will often feel as though it is a personal slight.

In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?

My mother was undiagnosed bipolar and there was 'nothing wrong with her' and my father didn't believe in mental illness. His attitude was just 'pull yourself together, there's nothing wrong with you'. It's a pity he didn't live until I was diagnosed, as he wouldn't have been able to deny a doctor's diagnosis.

Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?

When I'm worried now, I discuss the issue with my boyfriend and my close friends. They know to keep an eye on my moods, it all helps. I went to see my GP but it was a struggle to get him to refer me to the psych team. I don't think GPs are equipped or trained enough to deal with mental health issues and that they generally refer patients too late. My psych was distinctly unimpressed with the fact that my GP had taken 5 months to refer me.

Would you find this difficult? Why? Not particularly. I would prefer my boyfriend to know what's going on than I try to maintain a facade of everything being ok when it isn't.

Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why? I would speak to them in the first instance and offer to go to their GP with them. I did this a couple of years ago with a friend of mine and it ended up being a positive experience for her, even though she originally didn't want to do it.

clutteredup Tue 30-Aug-11 19:50:05

1. People feel that they might be considered weak or not as good parent as their own.
2. I think families are probably more supportive than people think they will be.
3.I would go on a website that was anonymous or talk to my partner- now I have a friend who had had MH probls too so I can talk to her.
4. The hardest part is admitting you have a problem if you don't say anything it might go away or maybe no one will ever need to find out.
5. I would talk to close friends or family but would find it hard to talk to the partner or spouse but I would using my own experiences as a way of showing I wasn't being judgemental.
I had PND and was terrified of anyone finding out as I was convinced I would be hospitalised and have my DS taken away, DH didn't know what to do or where to go for help and wanted to 'call someone' but I pleaded with him not to. I wish I had found MN and known everything was normal and could have been helped a lot earlier- also I wish ther had been somewhere for him to go too. We had questionnaires at health visitor sessions but I lied as I didn't want anyone to know what I felt like, it was so impersonal and I didn't know who might see it. I also worry about my MH in terms of employment prospects if I had had treatment I would have to put it on a health declaration for a job and that would have an effect on whether they would employ me or how they would view me - I'd rather deal with it on my own.(This might not be true but it's my perception of it)

Isthreetoomany Wed 31-Aug-11 09:54:51

I had an eating disorder as a teenager and, after having been fine for over a decade and through previous pregnancies, I am now struggling again whilst pregnant with my third child. My family never really knew about the ED when I was a teenager, partly because I was so secretive but also partly because my mum has food issues herself and the whole thing is not ever spoken about. My husband is unaware that I am struggling again, although I have managed to speak to my GP.

Re the questions:

Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?
Ideally I think it should be talked about, but as others have mentioned I think parents find it very hard to accept that their child has a mental health issue and how that may reflect upon them. I worry that my family would think that I am weak, that I am not a good parent and that I would pass my food issues on to my children. And I think that they would always believe that about me after I had told them, i.e. even if I recovered again they would always see me in that light - likely to have a problem again.

In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers? Yes in my case family are the biggest stigmatisers. My sister had some different mental health issues as a teenager, and at the time my dad was angry that I had discussed her issues with my then boyfriend - he made it very clear that he felt it was a very private issue and I should only be discussing it within the immediate family (not that we were actually discussing it much within the family!!)

Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health? My GP is the first real life person I would speak to, although I have also found the mental health section of MN very useful. I do find it hard to speak to GPs as I feel ashamed and find it very hard to start a conversation off if I want to talk about a mental health issue, although the ones that I have spoken to have all been very supportive. I have known myself to go to the GP planning to talk about my ED, but then when I get there chicken out and just talk about some other random health niggle that I have had for months and go away again! I also tend to hope that things will get better on their own, without me having to talk to anyone about it too much. Unlike many others, I still do not feel able to speak to my husband about it as I worry that he will also see me in a different light if I admit that I have a problem. I do not want him to monitor my eating in any way or worry about me; I want to have an equal relationship where he does not need to feel that he is 'looking after me' in any way. Not telling him has affected me getting access to counselling as I do not have anyone to help with picking children up from school/playschool which may clash with appointment times -although I have not told my GP this is the reason why I refused counselling as I felt I would look silly saying I couldn't talk to my husband.

Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why? I would hope that I would be able to talk to the friend direct, but I imagine I would find this hard in practice - as I am generally so rubbish at talking about mental health issues myself.

PlentyOfPubgardens Wed 31-Aug-11 11:33:18

I have suffered bouts of depression and anxiety throughout my adult life. The worst was in my early 20s when I spent some time in hospital.

My sister (2 years older than me) was very ill with anorexia in her pre-teens and my mum was really put through the mill by various psychiatrists and therapists - in those days, a mentally ill child was The Mother's Fault - it was all very Freudian hmm

I recognise what startAfire says about roles in a family. When my sister was ill, I was very much cast as the quiet one who caused no trouble and stayed cheerful. My mum was not to be upset and my dad's role was to protect her. If I did something to upset mum (such as being upset myself) I'd have him to answer to. He'd generally shout and send me to my room.

Because of this dynamic, my parents have always been the last people to know when I've been unwell. Not so much stigma, just fear of causing upset. When I was in hospital they worked really hard to be supportive but my mum was so upset, in floods of tears every time she visited which made things really difficult. I would feel comfortable talking to my sister but she doesn't talk about her own past illness so it's difficult to start the conversation.

I think whether MH issues should be talked about more openly within families depends very much on the family dynamics. Some people, sadly, are better off having as little to do with their families as possible. For others, the family can be a huge source of support.

IME the biggest stigmatisers are employers - especially potential employers. People get really worried about those occupational health questionaires - what it's legal for them to ask you and what is done with that information. Then there's having to explain yawning gaps on your CV and potential difficulties getting references if you've left previous jobs because of MH issues.

If I was worried about my own mental health I'd talk to my best friend and my partner. BF also has MH issues and we are very good at looking out for each other. DP has had MH problems in the past too so I wouldn't find this difficult. I'd also probably post on MN or a more specialist support forum. Sometimes, anonymity can be the only way to create a space where it's possible to talk about really difficult feelings. I am frequently amazed by the generosity of strangers on the internet, in terms of support, information and advice. It can help restore your faith in human nature.

If I was worried about someone else's mental health I'd speak to them directly in the first instance. If I was still worried, I'd speak to someone else close to the person, if there was somebody I could be reasonably sure would be supportive (see stuff above about families). I'd find this more difficult than talking about my own MH. I'd be wary of overstepping the bounds of somebody's privacy. Unless somebody was obviously a danger to themselves or others, I'd proceed with caution I think.

PlentyOfPubgardens Wed 31-Aug-11 14:09:50

Time to Change has released results to a new survey of adults which found that people often talk to their GP (26%) or partner (37%) first before going directly to a close family member, such as a parent or sibling.

The more I read this, the odder it seems. Why is 'partner' not considered a close family member? Aren't most people closer to their partner than their birth relatives? Perhaps I'm unusual confused

I think the overall aim of reducing stigma is a good one but I'm a little cautious about the idea that openness within families is always a good thing. Some people avoid talking about their MH issues with their relatives for very good, self-preserving reasons which have little to do with stigma.

TheMonster Wed 31-Aug-11 14:58:28

In my experience, you worry about telling family for a variety of reasons: will they think it is their fault and feel guilty? Will they tell other family members who will either gossip or look down on you? Will they criticise? Will you get the unhelpful 'pull yourself together' or 'what have you got to worry about' replies?

I think it certainly does need to be talked about more openly so that family members can understand what is going on and can be educated at how best to help.

I think families don't help with regard to stigmatising. They are the people closest you you, and the people whose opinions matter most. When they don't understand and criticise it hinders the sufferer.

When I was worried about my own mental health I spoke to my boss first as I had a breakdown at work. It was very hard as I had been bottling thingsup for a long time and those around me (work and my partner) could see that something was wrong. It was an embarrassing time and ruined my career.

If I was concerned about a family member or friend I would speak to others around us, which I wouldn't find difficult. Then I would speak to the person concerned, which I would find hard because I know it can feel like an intrusion and they may not be ready to face up to it.

TheOriginalFAB Wed 31-Aug-11 17:46:05

I find it hard dealing with my MH problems at the moment as one can get ignored as people don't know what to say when you are feeling low. One can get called attention seeking and still too many people think you can just snap yourself out of it.

PlentyOfPubgardens Wed 31-Aug-11 19:27:30

Yes, I think the stigma comes in a few flavours - there's the not knowing what to say/do for the best (and so ignoring the person), the attitude that mental illness is not real illness and then there's the perception of people with mental illness as mad and/or dangerous (less common these days).

We recently had mental health first aid training where I work (small MH/arts charity) and it was tremendously helpful not only for learning about what to say/do in various crisis situations but also for the more general conversations it opened up around mental distress and how common it is. The course leader said they are expanding across all sorts of work sectors, not just MH services, and the aim is for MH first aid courses to become as common as regular first aid courses. I think initiatives like this can do a huge amount to reduce stigma.

The other sort of stigma - MH problems not being seen as real illness is I think on the rise, largely because of this government's cynical tactics of getting us all to fight amongst ourselves about who the 'scroungers' are so we don't notice they've given all our money to the fucking banks.

<breathes ... smile>

An unrelated thought: I think (and this is a very personal opinion, possibly not fully worked out) mental illness will always be more frightening than physical illness because of the way we site our sense of self with our minds/personalities. Mental illness strikes at your sense of self in a way a broken leg, for example, never does. Does that make sense to anybody?

TheOriginalFAB Wed 31-Aug-11 19:33:07

Makes sense to me. Physical things are much easier to control than emotional.

busybee1983 Thu 01-Sep-11 08:22:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 02-Sep-11 11:13:49

Time to Change have asked us to say "We would like to thank all of you for adding your posts and for being so open about mental health. We'd also like to find out how it makes you feel if a partner or family member doesn’t seem to be able to talk to you about your mental health problem? Do add any additional comments here" Thanks, MNHQ

nickschick Fri 02-Sep-11 21:39:57

Being totally honest it upsets me that my dh finds my 'issues' hard to understand/a weakness and he belittles them and so whats a perfectly ordinary rant about wet towels on a bedroom floor gets twisted into me thinking -is it me?

I had a crap childhood I cant change that I didnt choose it and if I had a choice I certainly wouldnt want it .....Dh seems to think whats in the past is gone and you must get over it -not a option I have at 4am when my hearts pounding and im afraid to move off the bottom stair.

buterflies Tue 13-Sep-11 10:30:33

It is hard for me to talk to family about mental illness at the moment in particular as I have recurrant bouts of depression and so does my mum. So I feel I cant talk to her for fear of upsetting her and making her worse. My dad and brother dont understand and sometimes make fun of my mum and myself.

I feel weak, stupid and a fraud. I have had a good upbringing so why am I like this?

I speak to my GP first as she is quite clued up on mental health

My depression embarrasses me. I like to think I am a strong person but obviously I am not.

Energumene Fri 16-Sep-11 13:08:48

We'd also like to find out how it makes you feel if a partner or family member doesn’t seem to be able to talk to you about your mental health problem?

That depends very much on the family member. I've never discussed it with either of my half-sisters, but it's not an issue. Doesn't mean we're not close, but there is a sizeable age gap so it simply doesn't come up. Well, one day it might, but not yet.

With Dad, on the other hand, it's hard to say whether him talking about it or not being able to talk about it is hardest. Most of the time he would like to stick his fingers in his ears and sing loudly to drown out anything I might say about it. I used to find this hurtful, but actually I think it's more that he's concerned he may be at the root of the problem - he is, to an extent - and probably avoids the topic either out of guilt or fear of confrontation. On the other hand, when he does feel that he 'ought' to be talking to me about it, the things he says are so bloody crass that on the whole it might be better if he said nothing.

Shakey1500 Sun 25-Sep-11 23:07:16

I have no qualms whatsoever about talking about my mental health.

I too, had a breakdown which resulted in a stay in a psychiatric hospital.

A previous poster (apologies for forgetting name) said the only rational thought in her head was to kill herself. I totally understand that, alongside the calm, rational way to go about it and not understanding why other people couldn't see it.

I do not discuss it much with my family (especially my mother, bad relationship) as it is evident they are embarrased, do not understand and are the epitomy of the problem of it being a closed book.

I am going to write this next bit in capitals to emphasise the depth/strength of my feelings on the matter-


The "care" "treatment" I received was shocking. And despite me absolutely knowing I had PND ( two years after my breakdown) after the birth of my son I adamantly refused to voice it as I have no confidence in the system whatsoever.

I am happy to talk the hind legs off a donkey to anyone who will listen discuss any of these matters.

Tamoo Thu 27-Oct-11 14:46:54

I've had ongoing problems with depression, self-harm and eating disorders also some PTSD (don't self-harm any more).

Family were not useful. I only attempted to tell them, once, but they were very much of the 'pull yourself together' frame of mind. I still think this is the case, tbh; people's approaches to mental health issues can be wildly varied and staggering. I had a bad period recently and for the first time ever I said to a very, very close friend I am having a small breakdown - I didn't ask for anything, no help in anyway, was just informing him as to why I was being uncommunicative. His reply? "Bollocks". I was so shocked. He just didn't believe me, or took it personally, I don't know? That was a friend with whom I talked to daily about ups and downs but as soon as I labelled them as 'mental health issues' he 'turned'.

There is nobody I can talk to in my family, even my mum who has been hospitalised for depression. The thing is, people can be treated for mental health issues without ever learning how to discuss it, and without their families ever learning how to approach it....I think if your friend or family member has cancer you can read about it or google, but when it's mental illness, it's somehow not so tangible for a lot of people. Also I at some level I think people suspect it's either one of two extremes: a) malingering, or b) 'dangerous' mental illness that makes you a threat to their wellbeing. Maybe that's my personal experience. Visible media campaigns are useful, I guess, to counteract this (we had 'See Me' in Scotland, not sure if it was national?).

Nowadays I don't speak to anyone about my mental wellbeing. I have one friend who has a history of severe depression. I occasionally mention things to her in a 'light' manner but am very aware of not wanting to burden her or trigger anything.

I wouldn't go to GP because their first reaction is to prescribe ADs. I took these when I was younger and although they alleviated the symptoms they did nothing to address the cause, in fact they made it possible for everyone to actively ignore the cause. Also they interfered greatly in my creative life which is very important to me and a therapeutic outlet in itself. I took myself off ADs. Counselling? Would love it, but there is such a long wait on the NHS, thousands of people more deserving/in a more acute stage of need than myself, and I doubt that even if I got some counselling it would ever be enough. One of the first things I would buy with a lottery win actually is a couple of hours once a fortnight with a therapist, just to talk things out.

I would definitely approach someone if I was concerned for their mental health, in fact because of my history I feel I am always on the lookout for this type of thing. I know that having someone care, having someone ready to listen and to believe in the significance/intensity of your feelings can be so important. Also I know how hard it is to find that easily. Services like the Samaritans are so important, there should be more, similar, and more funding for different types of mental health facilities. So many people are like me - no family to speak to, few friends/inappropriate friends, unable to take any recuperation time during very bad periods due to commitments of work and children. I would love some 'emergency assistance' once in a while that wasn't medication.

Tamoo Thu 27-Oct-11 14:54:05

I feel empathy that they might not feel they know what to do, in practical terms.

I feel angry that they are incapable of saying something simple like, I love you, and I care about what happens to you.

And very angry (in hindsight) when they find it easy to ignore or minimise something which is huge. Especially for kids/teenagers. I feel better able to cope as an adult, but as a teenage I was in an awful state, I remember one night in particular, I won't go into details but I was damaged physically, my dad came home in the middle of the night from work and I sat waiting so relieved that I was about to be noticed/taken seriously, he got there, looked at my injuries and just sent me back to bed. This kind of thing must go on all the time with children and teenagers who aren't able to communicate effectively and whose parents can't/won't deal with mental health problems.

unquietmind Wed 04-Apr-12 09:31:36

Thank you to everyone here for being so open, which I think is really important. I was looking through the open threads, and noticed this one was still going.

~ Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

As I work in the mental health sector, I see a lot of people, and I cant say whether more people involve their families or not. Occassionally it is really nice and you meet a family member or members who are really supportive, aware, understand etc. I think the issue is not enough awareness - and even when there is awareness about mental health, no one thinks its will happen to themselves or loved ones. People may not talk to their families as they have a greater awareness of what their families are like - they may worry about their privacy, being laughed at or called hurtful names in jest, have their liberties taken or their independence decreased.

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?

No, I think lots of groups stigmatise, it is just harder for the person to remove themselves from the stigma of a family member than a stranger.

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?

My partner. I wouldnt talk to my work colleagues as there is an expectation and unsaid rule that we can make it through all the tough times without distress, and we should pretend to be strong even if we are not.

~ Would you find this difficult? Why?

I do not find it difficult as I am used to it. My partner is very supportive.

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?

Duty social worker / GP / A&E Crisis staff / Mind / Rethink - but Im fortunate to know these organisations exist. I wouldnt find talking to services difficult but I may find it harder to talk to a family member as its harder to be objective and remove yourself emotionally from the situation and be helpful and supportive when you are closer to a person than when you are an employee.

unquietmind Wed 04-Apr-12 09:41:01

Additional question - family

My mum experiences mental health illness, but does not like to accept it. We cannot talk about it because she is embarrassed and feels that others think she is less capable because she had a severe episode about 14 years ago. My dad is verbally abusive and was physically abusive, and doesnt understand (from my view) appropriate human relationships so I would never talk to him about mental health. I told him once what I was doing for a living and he said "What do you want to work with them for?" (Circa 2003) although his views are not as outspoken now ( I dont know why, I dont even ask him as I dont want to know). My dad abused my whole family and I believe this has contributed to our family silence.

My uncle committed suicide after experiencing depression for most of his life. My great grandfather also committed suicide. One of my grandmothers suffered in silence for years and had troubles with my grandfather who refused medication for his experiences. As you can see its a lot going on but no one talks about it. Everyone knows what I do and how open I try to be about things but still no one talks about it. Its like it never happened, although its there all the time, its never alluded to, its like a communal secret, to not discuss, and especially not share with friends or outside the house (so dont tell anyone.............)

My partner has come from a mixed background of struggle and strife and sometimes he gets fed up of my complicated lot, but he does his best. I know hes got my back even if he cant understand why I havent let go of something, or something else is bothering me or others.

1stbabyat30 Wed 22-Aug-12 10:50:59

I think I have had mental health issues my entire life but I have never had the courage to get it diagnosed with what I know it is - Bipolar. I am a teacher and have left many jobs because I woke up that morning and couldnt get out of the door. In 2009 my parents called a horrid doctor round to the house because I was refusing to get out of bed and go to work. I had built myself up into such a frenzie over the 'thought' of going back throughout the Christmas holiday that I must have been acting quite oddly. He was completely unsupportive and put out and said - "do you want to kill yourself?" me: yes. Him: Ah, it's depression, take these pills.
I didnt take the pills after a week because I prefered the highs than the monotomous way it made me feel. And of course I never went to see the counsellor my mum recommended. I generally tell no one.
I tell my boyfriend and he says don't be silly you're the happiest person I know. It is the great unspoken between my parents. I couldnt very well tell a prospective employer or anyone at work because I work on an agency part time basis - and I need teaching hours. I don't tell anyone. I don't want anyone to think I am looking for attention.
I love the insane highs - that have recently led me to take some massively stupid and inappropriate risks in my life. I could do without the lows.
I once told a very nice boss after I left another job and he said he suffered with depression too - and was very sympathetic - to a point - and then replaced me.

Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?
Because we are British and don't talk about our feelings - too touchy feely and it makes them uncomfortable.

In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?
No - but my mum would prefer it if I was just 'better' so when she says how are you she really wants me to say Great - not, well I am thinking about running away from everyone and everything. So I say "great".

Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?
No one. Just myself.

Would you find this difficult? Why?
I don't think people understand, I don't want to bother people and I don't want to talk about it.

Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?
I would talk to their partner or another one of their close friends. I wouldnt find it difficult at all because I wouldnt want to live with the guilt if anything happened - and I think it's much easier for people to stick up for other people rather than themselves.

SirBoobAlot Sun 26-Aug-12 10:27:35

~ Why do you think it's still so hard for some people to talk openly to families about mental health? Should it be talked about more openly when there is an issue?

For exactly the reason that Time For Change are campaigning - stigma. Within my family, three of the ten aunts and uncles I have are taking anti depressants. They've all told me; but not told each other.
Yes it should be talked about more readily. One in four people will suffer from a mental health problem at some time in their lives. Considering the average family is two parents, two children, that's one in every family. All the more reason for it to be out in the open.

~ In your opinion are families the biggest stigmatisers?

When you're suffering from a mental health problem, be it a short term bout of depression (NOTE, I am not at all minimizing this suffering, its horrible regardless) or a long term psychiatric condition, you already feel like you're fighting yourself on a daily basis. It increases your concern for how other people see you, and decreases your self worth, so even if you wanted to tell someone how you were feeling, you can't see the point; who would be worried?
More than that, there is something very difficult in telling someone you see on a daily basis. I was thirteen when I first went to the doctors requesting some help because of my mood, and because I was thirteen, my mother had to be there. I couldn't look either of them in the eye as I discussed how I felt, because I knew that by her finding out, I would have to face it every day.
To an extent there is a level of "but you always seem so happy when we spend time together" when you tell a family member, which makes it difficult. But I wouldn't say its just down to concern over how they will react, but to the condition having control over you.
I also feel this question is very general - surely it comes down to the individual family members?

~ Who would you speak to first if you were worried about your own mental health?

Now? Probably my CPN as I have weekly / fortnightly mental health appointments. Other than her, probably my friend M who suffers from the same condition as me (Borderline Personality Disorder).

~ Would you find this difficult? Why?

I have nothing to hide from M, because we've been there for each other through the most extreme of emotions before. I probably withhold less from her than I do from my CPN!

~ Who would you speak to if you were concerned about the mental health of someone in your family or a friend? Would you find this difficult? Why?

I would speak to them. I'm very open about the fact I have a mental health condition, because the years of denying it had a detrimental effect on me. So everyone knows I suffer, even if they don't know the details. This has worked in my favor before, because I can use it as an opener - if you're speaking to someone who has a mental health condition, you don't fear the stigma so much. I know this from people on the other side of things too.

~ How does it make you feel if a partner or family member doesn’t seem to be able to talk to you about your mental health problem?

My parents still refuse to accept that I have BPD, and instead refer to it as "your depression". There is so much more to BPD than depression, and it frustrates the hell out of me that they won't see it. They will also say they want to talk, say they want to understand, but then when I let them in even a little bit, they can't cope with it.
I think they also like to say "there there" and expect me to be pacified, then carry on as normal. Like willpower is stronger than the hold my BPD has. I suffer from BPD every day - some days I am stronger. Some days I have to admit defeat. Doesn't mean that every single day isn't a huge effort to keep it together, whether I am smiling or crying, laughing or screaming, I am fighting.

orangeandlemons Tue 28-Aug-12 13:44:02

I really think there nees to be a massive push from the whole of society about destigmatising mental illness.

I have had depression and anxiety for about 20 years, usually managed very well wih meds. Overload at work at the start of this year pushed me over. I had to come clean in theworkplace.

Since then loads of people have sought me out to talk about their mh issues. Loads. All desperate to share. All desperate to to know it's not only them. Yet nobody ever said anything before I went under! A huge adcampaign would help!

orangeandlemons Tue 28-Aug-12 13:46:07

Ialso agree that there are levels of prejudice.

Anxiety and depression are the least stigmatised.
Bipolar and Personality disorder next
Schizophrenia worse of all.

It drives me mad. Justbecasue you can't see an injuryto the mind

katielou2012 Tue 28-Aug-12 13:52:23

I find it quite easy to talk about my depression I dont know why maybe its because im not ashamed to admit that I have a mental illness. But I understand that a lot of people do as there is a stigma attatched to it, I suffered with adolescent depression when I was 13-17 and then had PND when I had my daughter 21 months ago. I am now off the tabs and back in the real world, I am terrified of having a relapse though. My anxiety seems to be creeping up everyday and Im worrying about the stupidest things. I will have to keep an eye on things as im moving back in with my boyfriend soon back into the house where I suffered my PND so it brings back a lot of bad memories. We will be moving out hopefully next year, I'll just have to keep myself busy smile

Tee2072 Tue 28-Aug-12 13:54:14

I thought this looked familiar!

HQ, did anything ever come out of it?

FTRsMammy Wed 21-Nov-12 21:15:18

I suffered from post natal depression for over 2 years after my DS ( soon to be 4 ) was born, I also had in diagnosed PTSD stemming from his traumatic delivery. I'm lucky that my family were amazing, sadly that's because most of them have suffered depression at some point.
My DHs family are much less aware if MH conditions and didn't really know how to be with me or what to say but not because they didn't want to be supportive, they were just out of their comfort zone.
I didn't really discuss my MH with anyone while I was ill, however I'm now very open about it and don't see why I shouldn't be.
If my experience can help someone recognise some symptoms in themselves, then great.
I think it's very difficult to discuss someone else's suspected MH issues as a lot of people are in denial about their own symptoms or simply don't see them as a by-product or their illness.

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 26-Nov-12 11:27:21

Hi - just spotted these recent posts - this thread is now closed as it's an old thread (and sorry I should have marked it as such before).

If anyone wants any info on mental health issues please do take a look at the Time to Change website

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