IN 1930, with the Mental Treatment Act, the word “lunatic” was finally removed from English jurisdiction.
Not until 2012 did the US government remove the word “lunatic” from all US federal laws, and up until the 19th century, lunatic was still the most readily available term in law to describe someone mentally ill.
It is not to suggest all those with mental illnesses should be described in terms of – or put on a parallel with – lunacy. Nevertheless, similar words were still being used in law to describe someone “of unsound mind“, and mental health was still associated with the archaic idea it was somehow related to the moon – hence, lunacy.
Mental health has long been a topic of some distaste. It was not until the mid-19th century that mental health became a concern of medicine, as opposed to the church.
And even as recently as the early 20th century, methods such as electroconvulsive therapy and lobotomy were being used for depressed persons. One need only look to the treatments of WW1 shellshocked soldiers to see the Dark Age methods used in treating the mentally ill.
Thus, mental health is a subject many wish to avoid: from anxiety, to depressio; body image disorder, and illnesses relating to eating – each has its fair share of stigmas and stereotypes, which keep it under wraps as a problem best left alone.
This, thankfully, is changing.
I read a touching blog by a friend who deals with anxiety, and was struck by the honesty and openness she shared about her mental health.
It is becoming more common, it seems, for people to discuss openly their mental health; either in an effort to help others, or to help themselves by opening up about the issues they are facing.
There remains a fear in the UK over the stigmas associated with mental ill-health. According to a Comres poll, 69% of Britons believe those with mental illnesses are judged negatively in the UK.
Meanwhile, 50% of MPs see stigmas surrounding mental health to be some of the biggest barriers in tackling the issue.
This is seriously concerning, considering 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer a mental illness in their lifetime; and the Mental Health Foundation stated it is the “largest single source of world economic burden”, costing the UK £70-100bn each year.
It is clear mental health is an issue, and the fact people are beginning to talk about it is excellent. Work done by the likes of Relief Cafe, Support in Mind Scotland, and SAMH is contributing to getting the stigmas cleared from mental health.
Some sceptics might go as far as to say people are jumping on the mental health bandwaggon, or that mental health is a modern phenomenon.
It is not.
Mental health has always been a problem – people just did not talk about it. People were kept indoors, sent to do manual work, or sent to asylum to “cure” their illnesses.
Now, the ball has begun to roll. The day we begin to see mental health on a par with physical health will be a good day for the mental health awareness campaigns.
Just like you have to work hard to have the physique and level of fitness you want, you have to work hard to achieve a good level of mental health too.
We are too fixated on the idea of happiness; thinking other people are always happy, and that we can never be as happy as them.
This is a fallacy. No one is happy all the time, and occasionally – beneath the surface – is someone wanting to sit down, have some company, and just talk.
Be aware, be there to support, and never consider yourself alone.
For more information on mental health, and the help available to you, visit the NHS Choices website, or visit the sites I linked to above. Speak about it; we are all in it together.
Having had my own experience of mental ill-health, I write this post to encourage people to remember they are not alone, and it can and will be better.