occupational psychologist and clinical hypnotherapist, I am fascinated by the concept of shame and stigma and how can it be overcome. We need to normalise, NOW, the discourse around mental health, so we can confidently to seek help, free from discrimination. In my own case, its taken me years to seek help for my own anxiety and depression that I realise now was brought on by own childhood trauma. I only feel safe admitting it because I sense mental health is beginning to move higher up the public agenda. So as I confess to my own struggles I want to add my own voice to the mental health debate.
Admitting your vulnerability and asking for help is tough. I feel shame and embarrassment. I don't tell anyone about my mental health issues, such is my worry about being judged and possibly rejection by colleagues, friends, relatives. And yet - and here's the conundrum - as a therapist and as a friend, when others open up to me, I offer unlimited support! I admire their bravery, offer soothing words, feel a connection and intimacy at a deep and psychological level... a human level. Brene Brown writes, “vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me” suggesting we love to see vulnerability in other people but afraid to let them see it in us.
Has the shame and stigma that has traditionally blighted mental health started, at last, to reduce? Last year when the Royals and celebrities promoted the Heads Together campaign I became a huge supporter. I loved the publicity as I saw the potential to normalise the debate around mental health issues and, at last, shine a light even into the darkest of corners. This is all so very welcome! But the resulting social media backlash, dubbing the Royals and celebrities as "over-privileged whiners" who shouldn’t open up about their mental health issues, halted my air-punching delight. So the promotion of mental health issues became very quickly overshadowed by the cult of celebrity and the "who do they think they are" – a kind of mental health snobbery! Doesn’t this just prove that shame and stigma remains hugely prevalent – dark and brooding – ready to pounce at any time? Probably. However, I still want to believe that all publicity – whether good and bad – will be a force for change.