Published May 31, 2018
I’d like to welcome our second guest blogger to speak about mental health, all the way from the UK: Sweeter than Nothing (https://sweeterthannothing.wordpress.com)
1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental ill health at some point in their lives.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Statistically a quarter of everyone you know will at some point in their lives experience mental ill health.
My two diagnoses- borderline personality disorder (also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder) and bipolar affect 2.4% and 2% of the population respectively.
How many people have you met in your lifetime? How many different faces can you recall? At least 2 out of every 100 people you have ever seen, spoken to, walked passed has borderline personality disorder and/or bipolar.
Both conditions are plagued by instability of mood, poor impulse control, periods of severe depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Over a lifetime 20.6% of people have had suicidal thoughts. That’s 20% of your friends, 20% of your family, contemplating suicide at least once during their lives. You may not think you have been touched by mental illness, you may think no one you know needs help or is struggling but read through those statistics and think again.
Reach out now, before it’s too late because suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. 1 person in 15 will attempt to commit suicide at least once in their lives and there is nowhere near enough being done to combat this.
Those with severe mental illness who do not commit suicide, die between 10 and 20 years earlier than the general population – a greater impact on life expectancy than heavy smoking.
Despite this for every person affected by mental illness, only £8 is spent on research – 22 times less than cancer and 14 times less than dementia.
There are children and young people today, experiencing such distress that they are hurting themselves, they want to die, to end it all but the average wait time for treatment for those people? 10 years.
10 years of pain, fear, confusion. 10 years of wanting to die before they’re helped.
It’s not just another statistic, another number on a page, there are people behind those numbers. I’m one of them. I started self-harming at 13. Barely into my teens and I was in so much mental anguish, I cut my arms to cope. I drank daily, I took drugs. In less than 2 years, I went from a straight A student to barely making it to school. I went from a well mannered, polite young lady to an abusive, alcoholic wreck.
Despite the rapid change, the school putting me in therapy, me seeing my GP and more trips to the hospital than I can count for various overdoses and cuts so bad they required stitches. I wasn’t diagnosed with a personality disorder until I was 24.
I waited 11 years from that first cut to find out why I did it. 11 years for someone to help me realise why I had become what I had and I had to wait another year on top of that to get the bipolar label, another year of rapid cycling, paranoid delusions and suicide attempts despite the antidepressants being pumped into me, before I fully understood what was wrong with me.
I know from experience, how hard it is to get help without support of your parents (remember, it was my school that put me in therapy) so I have tried and tried to push to get someone to help my sweet, innocent, 10-year-old son, who currently struggles with his emotions.
Child and adolescent mental health services in my area currently have an 18 month waiting list just for the assessment. Despite my sons school and GP both referring him, he was stuck on a waiting list for 6 months before CAMHS decided he didn’t meet the criteria.
I don’t want to sit back and just watch him suffer the way I did. I don’t want to be my mother who turned a blind eye when she didn’t know how to help or just couldn’t cope. I want to be able to take him to his appointments, sit with him and hold his hand every time he’s suffering. But I can’t help him on my own, I can’t wave my magic wand and fix everything he’s going through. No matter how hard I wish for it.
Children, teenagers, adults, we’re all suffering, crying out for help that’s just not there. It is not just stigma people struggling with their mental health face, it’s the lack of awareness, the lack of resources, the lack of help.
So reach out, be kind and compassionate, lend a helping hand whenever you can because so many people you know could be secretly struggling and one day, it might even be you.
The Birth of Project “I am not ashamed.”
“My name is Ross. I have borderline personality disorder and I am not ashamed.”
These are easy words to type, but not so easy to say out loud.
Back in mid-February, I was sitting at my kitchen table, looking at Twitter. It seemed like I kept reading the same message from so many people, urging others to be more open about mental health. People were angry in their tweets. They were hurt. They wanted things to change.
While it is noble to encourage awareness and openness on social media, I suspected that the message was being relayed to others who felt the same way.
I felt a deep desire to do something different. I started thinking back to 2016, when I was homeless on the streets of Des Moines, Iowa. I had lost a job because my position had been eliminated, and I had no resources. My BPD took hold of me. I was scared and felt hopeless. I was angry at our mental health system for not providing adequate resources to treat BPD. I was angry at the way people judged me and my illness: a perspective that seemed prevalent in our society due to lack of education. I felt silenced.
I had an idea. I went down to a local distribution center and asked a supervisor for a box and a marker. I wrote on the box that I had borderline personality disorder and that I wasn’t ashamed. I sat down at a local park with a lot of foot traffic and held up my sign for seven hours.
I engaged in conversation with the public, and educating people about my disorder. I felt as though I was tearing off a mask and facing my fears. I felt a sense of freedom I had never felt before.
I decided to offer this same experience to others who had been sitting in silence.
#ProjectIamNotAshamed is a mental health initiative I’ve started that encourages people with mental health conditions and those who support them to go out into their community on August 18thand hold up a sign identifying their condition and letting the world know they are not ashamed. On my sign, for instance, it will read, “I have borderline personality disorder and I am not ashamed. #ProjectIamNotAshamed.”
As the public walks by, we will simply ask people to read our signs. Once a conversation is sparked, we will educate the public about our disorders or how mental illness has impacted our lives. We will take selfies and plaster them all over social media with the hashtag #ProjectIamNotAshamed.
The event isn’t limited to those with mental health conditions. Many people will be holding signs that read, “I am a supporter of those with mental health conditions, and I am not ashamed.”
As of May 25th, we have representatives in 25 states, 69 cities and 10 countries who are confirmed to participate, and I expect that number to grow.
If other people’s experiences are anything like my own, I predict they will feel a sense of freedom, and of a weight being lifted off their shoulders.
For many years, I felt I needed to remain quiet and hide my condition. I felt a sense of shame about what is a health condition. I now believe that the only way I can help to end the sense of shame many people still feel is by speaking out in public. I need to face my fears and be vulnerable. Together, we can promote awareness of mental health conditions, one person at a time.
My name is Ross Trowbridge. I have borderline personality disorder, and I am not ashamed.