The Heads Together charity have launched a new initiative to help people talk about mental health. This video provides facts and statistics about how effective their campaign has been so far:
But this got me thinking. How long does it take for stigma to disappear?
I can only draw on my own experience so I have chosen alcohol addiction as an example.
In June 1935 a Stockbroker and a Doctor had a conversation which would dramatically change the lives of thousands of people around the world. That conversation developed into what is probably one of the first examples of a support group led by sufferers for the benefit of sufferers. Alcoholics Anonymous was born.
By 1939 they had produced a book which talks about alcoholism in detail. What it means to be alcoholic, how it affects the lives of the sufferer and those around them, and importantly, how to live an alcohol free life one day at a time.
82 years on from that initial conversation, is alcoholism still viewed with suspicion? Are people still saying things like “you need to have more self-control” or “if you loved your family you would stop drinking”?
Unfortunately, I believe some people still have these attitudes. I have met people who try to push alcohol on to me. They say things like “a little one won’t hurt”. Actually, one sip of alcohol could kill me. Not immediately, but over time, slowly and painfully.
Trying to explain the complex emotional and behavioural issues that an alcoholic endures is easy, but only if the listener is another alcoholic. To the uninitiated it all sounds very strange and contradictory. Because it is. Nothing about why a person drinks themselves into a comatose state on a regular basis, someone who regrets everything that has happened in drink, someone who uses alcohol to free themselves of the guilt associated with their alcoholic behaviour, none of it makes sense. Unless you are an alcoholic.
For most it is easier to endure the embarrassment and hurtful opinions of non-alcoholics than it is to explain. Do we need to explain ourselves? No, we don’t need to, our personal alcoholism is just that, personal. But imagine if we were able to find the words to make other people understand. Imagine if all non-alcoholics had the capacity and understanding to accept us as we are, individuals who are doing our best to overcome our problems and live a full and happy life.
I would like the world to be a place where people are accepted on their own terms. I want there to be no discrimination of any sort – race, nationality, religion, money, sexuality, mental health, physical disability or social status.
I can see that the world is becoming a more accepting place for many. I want acceptance for all. I don’t want this to take another 82 years to accomplish.