I decided to write this today after a very interesting week for Mental Health awareness here in the UK. We are very lucky to have a much more accepting society than in elsewhere in the world and we also have a National Health Service meaning sufferers can seek free treatment (albeit with waiting lists).
However, like most of the Western world- there is still a long way to go in changing attitudes, hearts and minds about mental illness sufferers. This was epitomised this week by the brilliant World Mental Health Day, with celebrities admitting to depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.
Despite this, I noticed an appalling phenomenon on social media. This week, Zayn Malik, the singer formerly of One Direction, cancelled solo concerts due to high anxiety. I thought he was so brave to give this reason and for his celebrity friends to publicly support him. However, when reading the Facebook comments my heart sank. Here were a few (I am paraphrasing as don’t want to put the actual comments on this blog):
‘He didn’t have anxiety when he was in One Direction and earnt all that money…’
‘Such an attention seeker, man up’
‘Drama Queen…. getting bored of this’
These were the gist of many comments written from cowards hiding behind computer screens. However I couldn’t help but think that if he disclosed he had heart problems, diabetes, cancer etc…. people wouldn’t say he was attention seeking. I definitely face palmed reading these comments…..unless you have experience of an anxiety disorder or have a friend of family member with it, you have no idea the courage it takes to a) get on with life and b) talk about it- let alone to the whole world.
Then, yesterday, reports came out that the singer Will Young quit Strictly Come Dancing (UK version of Dancing with the stars) due to anxiety and the scrutiny that the job required. Of course, the Facebook trolls were back in force with similar comments,
‘If he didnt like the attention, he shouldn’t have gone on Pop Idol in the first place’
‘Drama Queen, can’t believe hes quit, hes let everyone down‘
etc etc – a whole plethora of disparaging, stigmatised comments. Luckily, there were many people combating them but why have so many people got ingrained attitudes in them that anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders are caused by people wanting attention?
We are not attention seekers.
We want more than anything to live a normal life despite our conditions. We don’t want high anxiety or suicidal thoughts. We don’t want to feel embarrassed or ashamed for our conditions.
We are not drama queens. End the stigma now.