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Mercury Article: The stigma of mental illness...

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A generation or two back, some people were embarrassed to admit they or a family member had cancer. They felt it was embarrassing; a personal failure which might make your neighbours think less of you.

Ridiculous, of course. But swap ‘cancer’ for ‘mental illness’ and the problem seems a lot more up to date. Even though mental illness has medical causes just like any other disease, the stigma of suffering from it has only started to fade in the last few years. Which is absurd when fully one in four of us will suffer from it at some point in our lives. Whether it’s depression, OCD or panic attacks, judging people who are ill, rather than helping them, is an attitude that’s long-overdue for change.

But change is coming, thank goodness. It’s hardly a new issue (even Winston Churchill suffered bouts of depression, which he called his ‘black dog’) but it’s only recently that sufferers have felt able to talk about it openly, and seek treatment.

Fortunately, Weston is ahead of the times (of course we are!). Long before mental health became news or attitudes began to change we’ve had ‘1in4’, which some of you may know under their previous name of ‘Friend’, who’ve been helping local residents struggling with mental health issues for over 30 years.

I paid them a visit the other day and was very impressed. Many of their staff and volunteers are former clients who have overcome their own mental health issues, so you can be sure you’re in good hands if you need their help. And because they’re a charity, they exist to help people on low incomes too. Weston is lucky to have them so, if you know someone who’s been struggling with depression or a similar problem, you should definitely tell them about 1in4.

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