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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.

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.

smugtandemfeeder Fri 26-Aug-11 20:38:28

~ 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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startAfire Fri 26-Aug-11 20:58:30

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startAfire Fri 26-Aug-11 21:03:06

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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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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)

KatieScarlett2833 Sat 27-Aug-11 12:43:49

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.

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