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Stephen Fry's story shows we still need to talk

Thursday, 06 June 2013 Tracey

Tracey blogs about how stories like Stephen Fry's about suicide,can help remove the fear and prejudice.

Today saw Stephen Fry talk openly about his suicide attempt in 2012, where he tells us how close he came to losing his life. He was asked why would someone who has everything try to end it all?  His response of saying there is no why or a reason about why someone would try to take their own life, sometimes it just is.

As the president of Mind, and I’m sure you can appreciate my thoughts here, for him to come out about having a mental health problem is strong and brave. Though to openly admit that he attempted suicide last year shows he understands the importance of allowing people to talk about suicide. To get the fear of suicide out in the open so people can discuss it and remove any fear surrounding it.

Listening to the radio this morning, a presenter questioned why would there still be stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness if you have so many celebrities talking about their experiences. There’s Frank Bruno, Ruby Wax, Stan Collymore and Stephen Fry all talking about their experiences of mental illness, so why are we still in a time or place where mental illness cannot be talked about as freely as say football.  This question was answered by a listener saying that there is still fear around mental illness that needs to be removed, the only way for this fear to disappear is by educating people around mental illness.

When I was a child I was told that people with schizophrenia are dangerous and that if I ever met anyone with the illness then I should get away from them as soon as possible. That was nearly twenty years ago. I cannot explain to you how appreciative, understanding, empathic some of the people I have met who happen to have that label of schizophrenia. To me this just shows that you don’t know one person to the next unless you get to know them and understand their way of life. This is how you make new friends in the world, so why would this be any different when you meet someone with a mental illness.

So what is the way forward?  Mind and Rethink have been working together to remove stigma and discrimination around mental illness for the last few years on a joint project called Time To Change.  The project has already had great results in removing prejudice that mental health sufferers experience, which their main message being “It’s Time To Talk, It’s Time To Change”.  Both organisations are aiming to educate people in mental illness.  Not just educating those with a diagnosis, but also those who want to know more.  For people who want to help their friends, family or neighbour. 

There is loads of information on all three websites around different mental illnesses, please take your time to have a look and do your part in help remove mental health stigmas and discrimination.  You might be able to support someone who is going through a bad time. This one small conversation you have with them may make all the difference to their lives, whether you can see it or not, that person may be shown a small glimpse of happiness in their lives which may otherwise of stayed hidden.

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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.

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