Every family has a secret. An ingredient for the perfect bolognaise. A guilty love of Star Trek. A wardrobe with an entrance to Narnia. Occasionally, the secret is a fellow family member. Someone who’s only spoken about in hushed tones.
‘Uncle Phil? Oh dear, yes, tragic… *whispers* Arrested for stealing a vacuum cleaner.’
All too often, the source of the embarrassment is a mental health problem.
‘That’s right, he had a breakdown. Went completely cuckoo. His poor wife must be so embarrassed’
Such attitudes make me deeply upset. Not just because they’re entirely undeserved, but because they both cause and perpetuate suffering. Shame, for those who already feel wrongly ashamed. Isolation for those who already feel lonely. And barriers for those who already feel trapped.
So I hope we’re all agreed. Stigma is bad. Down with stigma! *Waves poms poms*
But sadly not all stigma is as easy to recognise as the bigoted words of a few, erm, bigots. In fact, by far the most dangerous stigma, and certainly the most common, is the least obvious. The stigma of silence. That hides the suffering, and keeps the stereotypes unchallenged. I know I’ve never felt as ashamed, lonely, or trapped as during those moments when I’ve reached out, confessed my craziness, and received nothing but silence.
This silence has to stop. People with mental health problems aren’t to be kept secret. They’re to be celebrated! For their bravery and their strength. Far from a source of shame, the people I know with mental health problems are a source of great pride and inspiration. And it’s time we celebrating them. Our mums, our dads, our sisters, our brothers, our friends, our cousins, our colleagues, our lovers.
Which is why, as the final part of my fundraising effort, I’m asking everyone to give a #PoundForTheHound. One UK pound on behalf of the black dog in your life. I gave a pound for my mum, who’s been heroically struggling with depression for fifty years. That bravery shouldn’t be hidden, it should embraced and shared. Only together can we break the silence and break the stigma.
So please give a #PoundForTheHound in your life by texting:
PFTH70 £1 to 70070 (UK ONLY)
And don’t forget to share your tribute on Twitter/Facebook with the #PoundForTheHound hashtag!