North-Essex Cluster

Stigma and Mental Health

The recent session organised by North Essex Mind & Spirit featured Anaar Shivji Psycho Therapist with Health in Mind who spoke engagingly about Stigma and mental health at DNA Networks in Colchester. The meeting was well received by a wide range of people all expressing an interest in and concern for mental wellbeing. Thanks were also expressed to Valerie Dent for providing award winning catering.

Much interaction took place and many questions were raised in a very safe and informal atmosphere. Anaar spoke from her rich experience as a clinician about the debilitating effects of stigma on the individual leading to isolation, hopelessness and low self-esteem. She recognised that stigma leads to prejudice in employment and in the workplace and also results in discrimination in the housing market especially in the private sector. Stigma can also have an adverse effect on people’s ability to engage and participate in the life of the local community. It can result in the denial that there is a ‘problem’!!(“Pull yourself together you can do it if you try hard enough”!) This in turn can result in the person refusing the treatment that is offered.

Annar went on to describe how the person best copes and deals with stigma. If possible, surround yourself with supportive people. Remember ‘you are not your illness’ and labels for jam jars and not for people. Treatments are tried and do work according to individual circumstances. Remember you are not alone in feeling the way you do. With the help of supportive carers be hopeful and physically active. Remember you always have a choice on how to react to what life throws at you! Communicate with helpers and friends and make sure they know how you are honestly feeling.

Finally, Anaar outlined the steps needed to reducing stress. Be supportive as a carer or friend, challenge at all times the media stereotypes. As a concerned individual consider advocating on behalf of voiceless survivors of the system. Give praise when someone including yourself seeks help.


Your Reality Too

When I go off the Rails

I hurt myself not you

I curl up in my bed

A snail within the shell

When I am depressed

I do not rise up off my sofa

Let alone become a danger

Manned with an axe

To chop you up

When my brain is racing

From one thing to the next

I haven’t the space or time

To bother anyone other

So relax

When I am up

I am creative

Making, painting a must

I become one possessed

But not with you

Stigma wielding man

My juices too precious to waste

On hydrating your prejudice

I have an illness

It is not contagious

And not the all of me

So if you cannot accept

Or treat me with a little respect

Then at the very least, zip your mouth

Don’t tell me what’s best

Or simply to pull myself together

I am not curtains and do not care to be patronised

Remember one day it may be ‘YOUR REALITY TOO’

Rachel Blake, 2013