Sunday, 3 March 2019

The Problem with Mental Health Campaigning

One day I was working, and I was having a bad mental health day. All I wanted to do was to seclude myself, sit in a corner and cry, but I had to continue on with my day as if nothing was wrong, so I decided to listen to a podcast called “Happy Place” – presented by Fearne Cotton (available on Spotify), because I felt like I needed to listen to some positive, upbeat messages. I stumbled across an episode of this podcast in which Fearne Cotton interviewed Stephen Fry, who is the president of the mental health charity “Mind”. I thought it was such a coincidence that the exact thing I was struggling with was being discussed so openly, when mental health is often something that I try so hard to hide.

As I was listening to the podcast, Stephen Fry made such a good point about mental health awareness campaigning. There are 2 points that need to be made when doing the campaigning, otherwise it can do more harm than good:

  1.  “Mental Health is dangerous, often life-threatening and is a shockingly awful experience for some”, but…
  2. “It is so possible to lead a fulfilled, happy, connected, loving, beloved life in which you are a full proper member of society and you are not owned by your disorder”


This really struck a chord for me. I often talk openly about mental health online, when I have a screen to protect me and allow me to articulate my feelings without getting upset, but in person, seldom do I talk about my struggles with mental health. The main reason for this is the second point, I don’t want anyone to underestimate my abilities, coddle me or constantly question whether I am up to the job.

Stephen Fry, later in the podcast, talks about how someone with a physical illness (e.g. Type 1 Diabetes or Asthma) is more able to admit when they are unwell because people are more likely to understand that it isn’t their fault, and this is so true for me. I find it hard to admit when I feel unwell with Type 1 Diabetes, but when I do admit defeat, I can explain why. When I am struggling with my mental health, and I can’t explain to people a logical reason why, I find it difficult to tell people when I need to step back. I don’t want to be treated differently.

In the podcast, Stephen Fry eluded to the fact that “We live in a country that often think that passion and emotion are an embarrassment”, and I cannot agree to that more. The act of showing and sharing emotion can be so powerful, it shows a vulnerability that I truly believe people respect. I want to be able to open up fully and show people my full emotions, but I end up bottling it up, hiding it and often making it worse, and that may partly be because I *am* embarrassed to show weakness.


I want everyone to understand mental health. I want everyone to know that 1 in 4 people will experience mental health issues at some point in a year, and it can be very dangerous. I also want people to understand that because someone admits weakness, it doesn't mean they should be treated any differently in the future!

I hope that in the future, I can be as open and honest about my mental health as I am about my physical health. I aim to be open, transparent and confident about all aspects of my life, as I am only human after all, but for now I will acknowledge the need to educate about mental health and also know that because someone struggles with mental health, doesn't mean they can't live a full life.

Until Next Time,

Alyssa x


http://www.officialfearnecotton.com/news/2018/2/26/happy-place-podcast - The home of Happy Place podcast

https://www.mind.org.uk/ - "Mind" mental health charity


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My name is Alyssa Faulkner. I am a Type 1 Diabetic Teen living in Scotland. I currently use a Medtronic insulin pump and an Enlite CGM, and am a volunteer for Diabetes Scotland.