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Are we now expecting to have mental health problems?

(106 Posts)
Lizbethann55 Mon 02-Mar-20 19:58:29

I know what I want to say here, but I fear it may come out all wrong so I hope you will try to understand what I mean. Just these last few days within a couple of miles radius of where I live there has been the inquest into the death of a teenage boy who threw himself over a balcony at his school, a young woman who used to work on the Jeremy Kyle show was found dead after having been made redundant and just yesterday a motorway was shut because someone jumped off a bridge. Suicides seem to be increasing at an alarming rate. Mental health issues fill every news programme. Everyone , from royalty down, talks about it all the time. Yet it wasn't always like this. I wonder if our society is becoming so obsessed by having a perfect happy life that people can no longer cope with anything less and forget that negative emotions are as much a part of life as the good ones. I have a very dear friend who suffered from severe depression (caused by memories of being abused by an adopted brother) that she was sectioned several times for her own safety. She is now recovered but during her recovery period , every time she felt low or depressed she was terrified that her illness was returning. We had to tell her that those feelings were normal and natural and that "normal"( her word) people did feel down sometimes. That sometimes feeling low, unhappy, lonely , guilty, depressed, a failure etc etc etc were actually part of normal everyday living and life just as much as feeling happy, fulfilled, contented etc. So shouldn't we be learning that feeling negative emotions are not a sign of illness but a sign of being alive and that they will probably pass and that life is a journey of peaks and troughs, hills and valleys and not a trek along a flat plain. Of course there are always exceptions, like my friend. But wouldn't a more realistic view of lifes ups and downs help? Oh dear! I can already hear the accusations of me being heartless and not caring or understanding being hurled in my direction.

Anniebach Mon 02-Mar-20 20:18:02

No it wasn’t always like this. People with mental illness were made to feel ashamed, they brought shame ! on their families
so were locked in mental asylums. Many suffered in their homes behind locked doors. Mental illness was the silent illness.
People with depression were told ‘pull yourself together’ or
asked ‘what have you got to be miserable about’.

Seems some still think that way

GrannyOrNanny Mon 02-Mar-20 20:19:09

Firstly, I think you’re brave posting this. I don’t entirely agree with all of it, but I can see where you are coming from. I can only say that unless we have walked in others shoes...It might be difficult to truly understand quite how bad someone can be feeling.
However I do think we all need to be kind to others and not make quick assumptions without fully knowing their story. Who knows what the future holds for each one of us...

Lizbethann55 Mon 02-Mar-20 20:19:33

Well that didn't take long, did it?

GrannyOrNanny Mon 02-Mar-20 20:21:53

@Liz; To give your opinion also means you have to see differing opinions does it not..

Greymar Mon 02-Mar-20 20:29:10

An interesting question. I think social media has an awful lot to answer for. It's feeds insecurity. Resilience is needed to get by.

Urmstongran Mon 02-Mar-20 20:38:43

I wonder too whether social media might be more to blame Greymar. Maybe it’s use correlates with the rise in depression? Ditto drugs, in my opinion.

rafichagran Mon 02-Mar-20 20:41:48

Agree with your post Annie There were loads of people who suffered depression in previous decades, they were either told to pull themselves together, or they were dragged up to the eye balls with anti depressants and sleeping pills. Valium 10 was what I was put on at 17 because I was so depressed.

Anniebach Mon 02-Mar-20 20:47:05

rafichafran Valium was known as ‘mother’s little helpers’ ,
they caused much harm. Some doctors referred to patients who had mental illness as ‘fat envelopes’ because in desperation they often sought the doctors help.

Grannybags Mon 02-Mar-20 20:51:48

I agree with Anniebach and rafichagran

People don't kill themselves because 'they feel a bit down'

Oopsadaisy3 Mon 02-Mar-20 20:53:33

Lizbethann have you ever suffered from depression?

Telling people with depression ‘ that you are feeling alive’ trivialises the agony that they are going through.

Depression isn’t just feeling ‘down’ and a ‘bit low’

People were depressed and taking their own lives long before the Internet, we just didn’t hear about it.

rafichagran Mon 02-Mar-20 20:53:37

Why is your friend the exception Liz? she was/is one of the many. I have made a life for myself, have adult children, Grandchildren, a good job, my own home and car. Not a boast I was lucky I found the strength to do something about it. There was a time though where it could have been a real possibility I would have been on the scrap heap or proved my Father right, you are useless was his favourite thing to say to me. Oh how wrong he was.
Yes life is highs and lows but anxiety, depression and mental illness are not the same thing at all.

Chewbacca Mon 02-Mar-20 20:54:28

I can see what Lizbethann is getting at but I'm glad that mental health is more easily discussed now and that the stigma of mental ill health is being eroded; very much better for those who suffered with depression and who had to try and cover it up or be faced with being called awful names.

sodapop Mon 02-Mar-20 21:03:12

It is hard to understand Lizbethann attitudes to mental illness of which depression is one have changed so much. Problems are discussed more openly and treatments other than medication are available. We are all so much more aware now and that has its down side. Don't confuse clinical depression with a low mood. I agree that sometimes we need to draw on our inner resources and help ourselves in bad times but for many people this is just not possible.

Doodledog Mon 02-Mar-20 21:03:30

I know what you mean, OP. I think it's a tricky one, as clearly there are people who are in need of understanding and help, but at the same time, just as with physical illness, there are those who use mental health as an excuse not to do things they don't want to do, and the impact on other people needs to be considered.

I have a colleague who is absent from work every time anything stressful happens. When I say 'stressful', I am talking about fairly routine things, which are very much part of the job description, but she finds the effort of doing them too much, so takes time off sick, and the rest of us have to pick up the slack whilst doing our own job (including whatever stressful event is going on). The colleague has admitted that she can't cope, and that she stays in the role because she likes the salary, which is above average because the job can be stressful at times.

Similarly, there is a growing trend for memes on Facebook (usually illustrated by characters from Winnie the Pooh) which say that it is ok to not turn up to things, ok not to answer texts, ok to cancel arrangements - basically that it's ok to let people down and only think of yourself. Never mind that others might be worried, or might have cooked the meal you don't turn up for, or might have gone to expense to buy tickets you cancel.

We need to find a happy medium, I think. Everyone gets stressed at times, and everyone has days when they would prefer to sit in front of the TV than go out as arranged, but it just adds to the stress for others if people put their own feelings before those of others.

Before anyone shouts at me, I know that real depression is far worse than not wanting to go out, but there seems to be a bandwagon just now, and real mental illness is being hijacked and used as an excuse to be selfish, which is bad for those who really do suffer, as well as for those who get let down.

It would be dreadful if we went back to the days when so many women were medicated just to get through the day, and people were unable to express their feelings of depression or anxiety and had miserable lives, but that could be what happens if there is a backlash against those using mental illness as an excuse.

Marydoll Mon 02-Mar-20 21:17:46

Lizbethann55, I understand exactly what you are trying to say.
I have never spoken about this before to anyone.

Years ago, there was a huge stigma attached to mental illness and people rarely spoke about it or acknowledged that they had a problem, it was like a dirty secret. Nowadays, people are encouraged to talk about their feelings and be more proactive about seeking support, whether on forums like GN, (The Black Dog Gang) or from medics.

Many years ago, I suffered from serious post natal depression, compounded by larges doses of steroids, I was taking for a lung condition and my mother, a midwife, who should have known better, told me to pull myself together and get on with things! Everyone feels low after having a baby, give yourself a shake. I remember on one occasion she slapped me! sad

I was in such a dark place of despair and felt ashamed that I was so weak, but I couldn't ask for help, it just wasn't done.
It wasn't until the consultant who had prescribed the steroids realised how unwell I was and sent me to see my GP.
I was so embarrassed, I felt a failure and my family couldn't understand why I was being so difficult.
To this day, I don't know why my husband didn't walk out.

In my opinion, doctors are far better at diagnosing mental health issues nowadays and that is why we are more aware of it.
I remember my GP saying that it was not my fault, it was caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain. I had thought I was going mad.

Today, I have no qualms about seeking help and saying how I feel. After my recent diagnosis of a serious heart condition, on top of all the other conditions, I could feel those old feelings creeping back in to my head.
However, I did something about it and felt so much better having sought help and being able to vocalise my feelings about the unfairness of it all.

Everyone's experience of life is different, some are resilient and cope really well with everyday life, but for some it is so overwhelming, they cannot function.

Until you have been in that deep, black hole, suffocating in despair, you have absolutely no conception of what it is like.

Doodledog Mon 02-Mar-20 21:26:26

That must have been horrible, Marydoll, and I'm sorry you had to go through it.

Do you mind if I ask - do you feel that there has been an epidemic of mental illness, or do you think that these days people self-diagnose and assume that feelings of 'normal ups and downs' are the same as genuine illness? Obviously, please ignore me if that is too personal a question.

Chewbacca Mon 02-Mar-20 21:27:38

Marydoll well said. It's the stigma that's attached to mental ill health that stops many people admitting to needing help and going and getting it. The easier we become in being more open about it; people will feel less embarrassed and judged and so seek help.

Grannybags Mon 02-Mar-20 21:29:53

Good post Marydoll

rafichagran Mon 02-Mar-20 21:32:22

A sad but good post Marydoll.

Dollymac Mon 02-Mar-20 21:44:21

Marydoll 💕
Mental health is just as important as physical health
If you don't feel up to par, then whatever the problem is, it needs to be addressed
I just think that there is more awareness now and surely that is a good thing, rather than pretend something isn't happening

SueDonim Mon 02-Mar-20 21:45:19

I think I understand what the OP is trying to say. Poor mental health has always been with us, though. Think of the men who fought in WW1/2 who suffered shell-shock in silence. Or going further back, to Victorian times, with women having fits of the vapours or hysterics or taking to their beds. I’d put money on those being physical manifestations of mental unwellness.

I’m on a Family History group which has transcriptions of old newspapers from the mid-1800’s. There are a surprising number of suicides reported despite it being illegal then. But in all the cases I’ve read, extraordinary compassion was shown to the victim, speaking of the pressures he/she was under, or the unbearable situations they were in. It belies the view that people didn’t understand other people’s mental stresses, even if they didn’t use the language we use today.

SueDonim Mon 02-Mar-20 21:46:31

I forgot to add, I’ve been there, too, Marydoll, many years ago now, though I had more love shown to me than you had. flowers

Marydoll Mon 02-Mar-20 22:35:39

Doodledog, I'm not really sure how to answer you.

A part of me feels that today because people are more aware of mental illness, they do tend to self diagnose more than in the past, and equate the stress and demands of every day living with mental illness.
However in my opinion there is a huge difference between dealing with the ups and downs of everyday living' and actual mental illness. They are not the same thing.

There seems to be much higher expectations nowadays, competing with peers to earn high salaries, have expensive clothes, cars, holidays etc. and when people don't achieve that, they say they are depressed.

My experiences have made me a much stronger and more resilient person, they have made me who I am. I cannot change the past, but I'm no longer ashamed, I'm proud I plucked up courage, to admit I needed help from the cardiac psychologist after my diagnosis.
Posting here has been so cathartic! Onward and upwards. It has taken a lifetime!👍

Yennifer Mon 02-Mar-20 22:45:48

When I was depressed as a teen I was told to "get over it" and I didn't for most of my adult life because I was made too ashamed to ask for help. The suicide rate was actually higher in the 80s than it is now x