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! :-)

Thursday, 22 December 2011

End-of-Year post: Free Your Mind in 2011

First-things-first: Thank you for continuing to support FYM!!! :-D

It has been a long year for the Free Your Mind campaign, and myself (N.E.); but we (FYM) are very excited about continuing to move forward in 2012!

During March and April FYM took part in an online "book-club" discussion, on Twitter and Facebook, with All-Walks - "an initiative founded by Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O'Connor working... to celebrate more diversity within the fashion industry" - in which we discussed Bodies by Susie Orbach.
Previous blog post: 'All-Walks Book Club.'

At the beginning of April 2011 FYM collaborated with Imagine-mental health charity's Croydon branch to hold an art exhibition, called 'Broken Paths', at Fairfield Halls (Croydon).
Previous blog posts:
pre-BrokenPaths promo: 'Upcoming art exhibition...'

I also posted a follow-up entry to this blog after the exhibition about some of my thoughts and ideas on how Free Your Mind can progress forward: 'FYM took part in first public event in April this year...'

Nicola E. (me, :-D) was sectioned twice this year; first in April, and then again in November - but despite the lack of quantity of posts on this blog, I am always trying to improve the quality of the content delivered by both FYM and myself.

I decided to start-up Free Your Mind after feeling I was being abused by nurses on a psychiatric ward who were prejudiced towards people with mental illnesses(!); and, during that particular stay in hospital I was arrested and charged with criminal damage (to hospital property) and alleged assault charges (pressed by nurses on the ward).

In October 2011 I appeared in court facing the above charges - after I returned from court I posted an entry to my Tumblr blog about what happened and my thoughts on the experience.

So, we end 2011 and move forward into 2012 - and at FYM we are grateful for all your support, and we look forward to you continuing to join us on this campaign's journey. :-D - Thank you!

Free Your Mind wishes you 
happy holiday cheer 
and all the best for the next coming year.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Drug Addiction and Stigma (+ my experiences with both)

Drug addiction is an illness, which can – often, but certainly not always – accompany other mental illnesses; particularly those mental health conditions associated with impulsivity, such as my own diagnosis of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).

Drug addiction comes attached with its own batch of stigma; and, often, when a person is struggling with addiction, this can be perceived by others – particularly those who know of their addiction - as their one and only defining feature, for which they can be demonised for.

Common perception of a drug addict is that of that of a person whom is ‘immoral’ and 'a danger to society’; and, although, some may turn to crime to feed a habit, the image of the “immoral addict” is – in most cases – untrue, with its basis in prejudice.

Drug addiction is generally highly stigmatised due to the (mistaken) perception that, not only is an addict dangerous, but that they are the ones responsible for their problems - i.e. their addiction is self-inflicted.

But this stigmatisation is damaging; and, it is a large factor in contributing towards a person hiding their addiction, as well as keeping them in denial.

I’d like to take you back for a moment to FYM’s previous blog post in which I wrote about my most recent stay on a psychiatric ward, where I felt I’d been “over-medicated” and felt angry at the drug therapy I received whilst in hospital.

I didn’t, however, make it clear in my last blog post that this anger stemmed from my own ongoing struggles with drug addiction (and my addictions in general; self-harm included), and from my feelings that compliance with some of the (compulsory) medication is detrimental  to the likelihood of me making a successful recovery.

My appearance has become dishevelled of late, my skin is pale, and my eyes appear heavy; ongoing life-problems and mental health problems have taken their toll and it shows in my appearance.

Most of the prescribed medication makes my pupils dilate – so, although, it is apparent I am “on” a drug, it would be impossible to know which one - which sends out the image associated with the perception of the “immoral addict”, particularly to those who do not know me.  (The dilation of my pupils are due to compliance with medication; although, I have now requested to not be prescribed any addictive or dependency inducing drugs.)

However, this perceived image of me could not be further from the truth. And, the stigma displayed by strangers on the street – passers-by who pre-judge and making discriminatory comments – seems to be more persistent and is affecting me more than usual at this period when I am most sensitive.

Despite my ongoing struggles with addiction it is by no means a defining characteristic – everyday is a continuing battle with addiction, one in which I will persevere in fighting – but,  as I have written about previously on this blog, my illness does not define me.

Drug addiction is highly stigmatised due to a number of reasons, including, the taboos surrounding drugs and drug use, the perception that a drug addict is immoral, and the perception that a drug addict is responsible for their own plight.

But, like all stigma, the stigmatisation of drug addiction is damaging. Demonising a person purely on the basis of their illness seems thoughtless, and can cause hurt and pain to a person whom is already suffering.