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We need to talk…..

By Guest Blogger: Trey Cumberbatch

 

…….. about mental illness a lot more.

I'm not only referring to schizophrenia, dementia, bipolar disorder, etc; I'm also talking about depression, anxiety, stress, and any other mental affliction that fundamentally disturbs an individual's thoughts, behaviours and outlook on life. Some persons may find my use of the term "mental illness" a bit dramatic. However, I believe that 'illness' is not solely confined to one's physical well-being. The mind is a powerful entity, and serves as a crucial component in the compass that allows us to navigate life on a daily basis. Therefore, anything that impairs the mind's functioning subsequently impinges on a person's ability to cope with life's everyday demands.

Unfortunately, we somehow treat things like depression and anxiety as being symptoms of someone's frailty. Perhaps, we as a society continue to buy into this false notion of humanity that mandates that we must always have it together for ourselves. Hence, any psychological struggle being experienced is somehow the result of some individual failure on our part.

Furthermore, we rebuke the persons who struggle with these illnesses as being mentally and emotionally fragile, especially when they express their feelings to us. Raise your hand if you have ever been told any of the following, or if you have told someone the following when they've expressed a struggle to you:

  1. "You need to get yourself together."
  2. "You'll be fine."
  3. "Suck it up."
  4. "You have nothing to be depressed/stressed/anxious about!" (Usually followed by a listing of one's material achievements/blessings. Not to sound ungrateful, but mental illness does not operate according to logic).
  5. "It's a mind thing" (Not inaccurate, but you do know that the mind is powerful, and something that you literally cannot get away from right?)
  6. "You need to stop playing victim."

I could go on, but I believe that I've proven my point; as a society, we tend to admonish people for their psychological struggles. In doing so, we not only undermine the legitimacy of the mental and emotional problems that they are enduring, but we also make them feel as if somehow, what they are experiencing is their fault. This discourages individuals from talking about their problems, and many are regrettably left to suffer in silence. By no means am I attempting to ‘baby’ persons and encourage them to "run away" from life's hardships. Trials and tribulations are inevitable facets of the human package, and we do need to have a degree of strength when facing them if we are to navigate life successfully. However, disregarding the reality that we as humans do struggle is not an indicator of strength. If anything, true strength lies in professing that we will never always have it all together.

That's why we need to talk more about mental illness. I believe that talking about it can be the pivotal first step in the process of promoting an enhanced societal understanding of mental illness. This understanding can ultimately go a long way in transforming perceptions of mental illness in Barbadian society. Moreover, we can finally begin to deconstruct this false notion of ‘success’ that mandates that we must always have it together, and therefore reduce the mental and emotional strain on persons who feel as if they fail to live up to this ideal. On these bases, we can at least begin to help those persons that, even now, continue to suffer in silence.

 

About Trey Cumberbatch 

Having just completed his Bachelor's at the U.W.I Cave Hill campus, Trey Cumberbatch is now seeking to obtain a PhD in Psychology so he can contribute to the ongoing revolution of perceptions of mental illness in Barbados. He seeks to open an organisation dedicated to producing mental health research in the country.

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