Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Stigma Kills

Earlier this week I was shocked to read the mocking of people suffering depression by the current chairman of Exeter Conservatives Association. In reference to a campaign ran by local young people helping to combat depression asking for Ruth Smith's support she responded with "Dont talk about depression" - "Go away and do something creative like making quilts".

Mental Health Issues will effect 1 in 4 people in their life times and the impact of self harm, isolation and in extreme cases suicide can be far reaching on friends, family and the wider community. In recent years we have come along way from the outdated attitudes of the past where "man up" and "just get on with it" were common language even from your GP or local doctor however sadly it appears for some the seriousness and importance of supporting those with mental health issues doesnt seem to have sunken in.

I myself am very aware of the effect mental health conditions can have on both your life and those around you having in the past have made attempts to take my own life and suffered spouts of depression leading to self harm and periods of deep sadness in my life. This can put a huge strain on friendships, family relationships and your judgement, which can have far reaching consequences long into your career and future life as people fail to understand the context in which you were making decisions and living at a particular period of your life. Often people are not aware that trans people in particular face suicide rates of upward of 40% and self harm rates of 80% or higher and when looking at the broader Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual community you see equally shocking rates of self harm and attempted suicide. Research carried out by Stonewall UK shows this in more shocking detail.

Depression and Mental health can be a lonely place where often you burn your bridges quite fast and make yourself more vulnerable through self imposed isolation and internalised emotions, which is why support groups and campaigns showing that young people and all those with depression are not alone and that there is support available for them is all so important.

In a society where talking about self harm suicide and mental health issues is still met with deep breathes, sounds of "awww" and shock at how open someone is being, the continued stigma and ignorance around mental health is a barrier to a more engaging and open world that empowers survivors and encourages open support for all those that are facing mental health challenges in their lives.

I'm a Conservative and I believe very much in the values of celebrating those that overcome challenges and barriers to succeed and empowering others to do so. I know this is the message most in my party share and I hope the comments made by this one party officer were merely mis placed and un thought through rather than part of the stigma and ignorance that still perpetuates too much of our society when it comes to mental health.

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