Communicating illness: let’s talk about mental health

We were particularly saddened this week at jag by the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life.

Whilst the tragic loss of a great talent has been the predominant focus of the media’s reporting, his untimely death has once again highlighted the difficulties of living with depression and, thankfully, prompted some frank discussion of the issues surrounding mental illness.

A number of our clients work within the mental health sector and at jag we are always keen to promote a greater understanding of the issues surrounding mental health and how we can all contribute to our own wellbeing. What is frustrating, however, is the seeming need for a high-profile figure to die in such tragic circumstances before mental illness is discussed so openly.

Communicating illness – be it admitting to the presence of a lump or confessing to urges of self-harm; talking to your GP about the loss of appetite or discussing with a friend your low moods – is the key to recovery. The taboo of AIDS was demolished by the hard-hitting campaigns in the 80s; the ‘big C’ is now being attacked on all fronts with the call to ‘Join the Fight’ and ‘Stand up to Cancer’ – the barriers to confronting and communicating about these and other physical illnesses are being removed. Isn’t it time we flung open the channels of communication about mental health?

Talking therapies are integral to the treatment of mental health difficulties. From dialectic behaviour therapy (DBT) to psychodynamic and humanistic therapies, it is all about communicating the ‘self’. But how can someone who needs such help feel confident enough to seek it out when the stigma of mental illness has created a wall of silence?

The reporting of Robin Williams’s death has been irresponsible at times this week, another indication of the ignorance which surrounds depression. Surely we need to grasp the opportunity to communicate the issues sensibly and calmly. Above all, we need to keep the discussion going so that anyone who needs help can ask for support and find understanding.

Communicating about mental illness will benefit all of us.

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