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Episode 146: The Stigma Of Needing Help

Last week Ant McPartlin, half of Ant & Dec, spoke out about his struggles with Depression and Anxiety, and has checked into rehab to learn more about how it got so bad and how to hopefully overcome it.
He said that he was making it public because he thinks that it’s important that people going through a rough time ask for help so as to get the proper treatment to help their recovery. Great!
But he followed it by also saying “I feel like I have let a lot of people down and for that I am truly sorry.” That’s the part I didn’t like, because that guilty feeling is part of what made him ill in the first place!
It’s important that anyone going through similar issues recognises that there should be no shame in needing help. No reason to feel that you’re letting anyone down at all.
If you have to say to people that you’re struggling and need to step aside from something then you’re not letting them down.
Imagine if someone came to you saying that they’d been diagnosed with Cancer and they need to take a break while they get treatment, none of you would reply with “Oh I feel you’ve really let me down”. Of course not.

But It’s normal to feel guilty. Presuming you’re not a complete sociopath, everyone feels guilt. It’s part of being human. We all make mistakes and we all feel bad about them. The thing is, for someone with mental health problems it can feel as if they make more mistakes than everyone else. People can feel guilty just for having a mental illness in the first place let alone because of the things they do because of it.
Clients often tell me that they feel ashamed because they couldn’t go to work because they couldn’t stop shaking. They feel guilty because they don’t spend as much time with their partner or their children because they so often can’t get out of bed. They say that they are mortified over their behaviour because they used alcohol as a crutch and all that negative emotion will make it worse.

Sometimes we need to sit and talk it through and get help from a professional. Look at Prince Harry, it took him 20 years of anxiety and anger before he realised that having to walk behind his Mums coffin, aged 12, in front of a billion people watching around the world did not set him up for life very well, and it needed dealing with.
It’s great that someone so much in the public eye as Prince Harry can step up and say “You know what, you shouldn’t have to feel this way. You’re not a freak, and you’re not alone, you can do something about this.”

The Time To Change organisation have promoted the use of a hashtag #IWantYouToKnow to promote the idea of talking about mental health and it really has worked.
We shouldn’t have to keep hearing about all these suicides. Suicide is the UK’s single biggest cause of death among men under the age of 45.
Women still commit suicide but there are 3 times as many men. 3 times!
When the musician Chris Cornell died a few months ago and the medical reports said “The cause of death was suicide” we need to accept that it wasn’t.
Suicide was HOW he died, but not WHY. Suicide wasn’t the cause of death. Depression was.

75 per cent of people who take their own lives have never been diagnosed with a mental health problem at all. Probably because they didn’t ask for help.
But those that did ask for help, only 5 five per cent of them will go on to take their own lives. That’s quite a difference.

If we know that 3/4s of all suicides are Men we can also see where work needs to be done. I think the dangers come from expecting Men to be emotionally stronger than Women, the idea that someone should “Man Up” has been with is in one shape or form for generations and it needs to stop.
When a little girl falls over her dad will be the first to say “Come here, everything’ll be OK” and give her a hug. But when a little boy falls over it’s so often a different story “Pick yourself up, lad. Boys don’t cry”.
I hope we’ve come a long way to try and get better at this sort of thing. If we have, then we need to make sure that it’s maintained. And the more times that we can share our stories the better.

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