Welcome to the blog for Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign

This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
The blog consists of informative and, hopefully, entertaining articles/posts.
Enjoy! :-)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Stigma Facing Those Diagnosed with Mental Illness

People diagnosed with mental health disorders are stigmatised and discriminated against in pretty much any area of life, even in the places where you would least expect it. For instance; my inspiration for the Free Your Mind campaign came from the stigma and discrimination I faced, because of my mental illness, from the nurses during a stay on a psychiatric ward. 

A survey carried out as part of the Time to Change campaign, which also addresses discrimination towards mental illness, the survey found that people diagnosed with a mental health problem are more likely to be turned down for a second date if they disclose of their mental illness, than those who reveal they have spent time in prison.

Many of us with mental health problems do find it hard to date. Personally, most of the dates I have been on have bombed if I reveal I am mentally ill. People become afraid and can also quite often assume my mental illness means I'm stupid, or even dangerous, but I'm not! Sometimes they do ask for a second dates but as time progresses, arguments happen, and they use your mental health diagnosis against you. (I normally break it off at that point.)

Another survey by Time to Change found that 92% of people in Britain felt their job prospects would diminish if they were to disclose of a mental illness. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) at present does, to a degree, protect individuals who make the very brave decision to reveal to their employers they have a mental health diagnosis, but "one must prepare for a hard struggle to make use of that protection" says solicitor Kiran Daurka.

Unfortunately, the tabloids often report on mental illness in a negative, prejudice and ignorant way. Take the treatment of Britney Spears' "breakdown" and eventual sectioning. Also look at the more recent treatment of X Factor contestant Shirlena Johnson and her alleged mental health problems; however, does having a history of mental illness, or even a mental health diagnosis, mean that somebody is incapable of taking part in The X Factor, or at handling fame? No is doesn't.

When somebody is diagnosed with mental health problems and they have children, the people around them start to question whether that person is fit to be a parent, and often they can perceive behaviours in the person with the mental illness that are not actually there. Even those who understand a bit about mental health disorders can still hold prejudices, particularly when a friend or loved one with a diagnosis has others in their care.

Having a mental illness does not make someone incapable of caring for children, performing well at work, and of being of being smart and articulate. People with a mental health diagnosis are discriminated against far too often!

Read more about discrimination towards mental illness here.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Understanding Schizophrenia

Psychosis is the term Doctors give to, the widely misunderstood mental illness, schizophrenia. The first schizophrenic "attack" normally occurs when a person is in their late teens to early thirties. Despite popular belief, people who suffer from psychosis are rarely violent or homicidal; we may behave bizarrely, we may even be frightening, but we are essentially harmless.

I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder with schizo-affective disorder. In other words I suffer from auditory and visual hallucinations, as well as paranoid delusions.

Sometimes I hear voices. There are two distinct voices; one is a female, and the other is male. The female is cheery and never tries to bring me down; the male, however, is vile and vicious. I used to experience these auditory hallucinations more in my teens, now it rarely happens.

Sometimes the hallucinations are both auditory and visual; I will imagine an entire situation, which isn't happening, but all seems very real to me. This often occurs periods of severe stress and low mood.

When I have paranoid delusions I believe I am being watched and I become suspicious of the behaviours of those around me.

Hallucinations and delusions does not necessarily make me a danger to others. I am more more likely to hurt myself rather than anyone else.

There are three recognised types of schizophrenia; paranoid, catatonic, and disorganized. Paranoid schizophrenia is what I suffer from - hallucinations or delusions about persecution or grandiosity.

Catatonic schizophrenia is a type of psychosis where the sufferer is often mute or immobile; they may, however, experience compulsive, excessive, and strange motor movements that result in bizarre postures.

A person with the disorganised form of psychosis experiences few delusions or hallucinations, but displays unpredictable behaviours, such as inappropriate affection or rambling speeches.

The following is a short non-definitive list of the early earning signs of psychosis (none of which on their own are the mental illness):

  • Severe sleep disturbances; unusual waking hours or inability to sleep
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Cutting oneself, threats to harm self and/or others
  • A severe inability to concentrate and pay attention
  • Rambling speech
It is still unclear what exactly causes psychosis, but what is clear is that there is definitely more than one answer. Schizophrenia has been attributed to a number of causes, including; inheritance, lack of dopamine (neurotransmitter) in the brain, stressful life events, family experiences and personality, and drug abuse.

Psychosis can consist of paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. And still very little is known about the mental illness. Experiencing schizophrenia can be very distressing for the sufferer. But as I said before in the previous post Creativity and Mental Illness, psychosis is linked closely to creativity. We are more likely to be imaginative and creative, than to be dangerous.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Creativity and Mental Illness

The Free Your Mind campaign has its roots in creativity as it aims to use art, music, film and culture to battle stigma towards mental illness. And it seems to me that mental illness and creativity go hand in hand. There must be a link!

Psychosis is the mental health problem in particular that is believed to spark creativity. The thought processes associated with mental illness have been proven to be an advantage; for example, anxiety at a non-clinical level has survival advantages.

My diagnosis includes psychosis, and there is no denying that I'm a creative person. My brain has a tendency to over think everything and it is very imaginative; and I have a photographic memory. I also have a terrible short-term memory; my long-term memory, however, is remarkable. Which I'm sure is all due to my mental illness.

The bizarre thinking patterns associated with psychosis are likely to be what spark creativity. Typically, a psychosis sufferer will make unusual associations and illogical connections. However, when it comes to being creative, this is a clear advantage.

University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson says, "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities." This is also how the minds of those diagnosed with mental health disorders, such as psychosis and bipolar disorder, work.

Mental illness is nothing new. It has been around for thousands of years. Therefore; evolutionary theory suggests that in order for them to still be here they must have some kind of survival advantage. Admittedly, my mental illness has hindered me a lot, getting me sectioned and in trouble with the police, but at the same time it really get the creative juices flowing and that has been a real life-line for me.

Along with writing blogs (I have three in total; one on Myspace, one on the subject of film, television and my career - Titch Films - and this one), my creativity also comes out in the forms of screenwriting and poetry writing.

Relatively little is known about mental illnesses, even now, but I am certain that time and research will show a definite link between creativity and mental health disorders. What do you think?

Monday, 6 September 2010

Sleep Disorders

I haven't posted in a while because I was unsure of what to write about. But then I came across a post on the Internet about sleep disorders. Before I talk about that, though, I wanted to just fill in regular readers on the progress of the Free Your Mind campaign. As you may already know Free Your Mind is a campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of art, music, film and culture; and, as you may not necessarily know, the last blog post was the first of many posts which will be centered around the campaign's core aims. So, with this post I am in danger of going back on myself but this was something I felt needed to be aired.

For a long time now my CPN and psychiatrist has been telling me that my rocky sleeping pattern is all my own doing and absolutely nothing to do with my mental illness.

I have trouble falling asleep and when I do I sleep for a long time. Along with that, I am told I move about a lot (night tremors) and I have very disturbing dreams that stay with me all day. The following is the research I found on sleep disorders.

The symptoms of sleep disorders often go unnoticed by the person concerned. These symptoms can express themselves as snoring, nocturnal sleepwalking and gnashing of the teeth. (I gnash my teeth all the time.) Nocturnal sweating and urination also impairs your sleep when suffering from a sleep disorder (Yep.), and this can sometimes result in bed-wetting.

The research I found says that most sleep disorders are caused by anxiety and stress. And to beat sleep disorders you can meditate, stay positive and keep a balanced nutrition. Which I completely agree with. But, at the same time, surely the state that my sleep problems are in should be ringing alarm bells in someone's ears, and not just mine! Or maybe my CPN's right and this is something I have to sort out by myself?!?