Mental Health Stereotypes

By Pam Jenkinson – Night Light Crisis Café Project Worker

It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem! Yes 1 in 6! Furthermore, one in four of us have or will develop a mental health crisis in our lifetime. So surely having a mental health condition should not have any stigma around it – yet still many people are reluctant to admit or disclose they are not in a good place and are struggling? So why is this?

When you think of poor mental health – what do you envisage? The media is one of the most powerful weapons when it comes to stereotyping mental health. Studies of children’s cartoons show the same negative stereotypes as adult TV and feature films: once a character is identified as “mad”, children expect them to be violent. With character described as violent, mad, psychotic – no wonder we do not want to associate ourselves with such ridiculed and dangerous individuals.

Yet the reality is so different – most people with a mental illness never commit acts of violence and actually are more likely than others to be victims of violence.

So, what does a person experiencing a mental health crisis look like? The truth is they could look like you or me. A mental health crisis has no agenda to who it strikes, it does not care whether you are rich or poor, married or single, famous or anonymous; it does not care about your gender, age or ethnicity, it does not care if you are working or unemployed, whether you have children or not.

The truth is it can happen to anyone, at any time of their life and can happen for lots of different reasons. The positive I am finding more and more though is people are now really talking about it. Sadly, this has come at the expense of watching the pain high-profile celebrities have been through such as Caroline Flack, Rio Ferdinand and most recently Megan Markle.

Now having a mental health crisis is starting to feel like we should not be hiding away, believing we should be ashamed of how we feel. No longer the ‘stiff upper lip’ is seen to be to the best way to cope with our emotions. The Government has stepped up in recent years too, providing funding for projects to support others going through a crisis. This has enabled the NHS along with many charities to be able to provide the much-needed care and support.

The Night Light Café has benefitted from funding provided by the NHS and we aim to provide a safe place for people and offer signposting to those who need our help. Over the past year, since we opened, we have seen and spoken with guests from every walk of life. At no point has the stereotype media character walked through the doors; instead, our guests are just like you or me.

Mental Health UK have produced top tips for Mental wellbeing and their first one is to communicate. Now don’t get me wrong, taking that first step and reaching out is often the hardest, but it can start with a message. We have a Facebook page, @nightlightcafelincoln where you can send us a message to request support, whether that be asking for a phone call or booking into a café, where you will be met by a friendly face and a recognition that you are not the only person who might be struggling.  You can also call us on 0300 011 1200.

Let’s appreciate that there is no stereotypical person going through a crisis; there is a good probability we are all going to need help sometimes. So, we should not feel ashamed by this, instead know we are not on our own.

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