What do Buzz Aldrin, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Sting and Winston Churchill have in common? asks Sam Vaughan.
They all have had mental health issues and each and everyone of them has made a phenomenal success of their lives. Think before you judge people with mental health conditions.
For hundreds of years people with mental health conditions were locked away in poor conditions and never seen by the rest of society. They had hardly any say in the running of their lives. Today, we lock people out of our society more subtly but just as effectively, with our negative attitudes.
Too often people with mental health issues are labelled 'Abnormal' 'Nutter' 'Psycho' 'Schizo' and other such names. This not only dismisses them as people not to be taken seriously but gives the perception that they are dangerous. This can result in them being excluded from everyday activities when, in actual fact, people with mental disorders need our compassion. Labels, such as these, prevent true understanding.
Who of us can put our hands up and say we have never had any mental health problems? From those of us who thought we couldn't go on after a bereavement to stressing about failing exams, mental health affects each and everyone of us, even if we don't realise it. The chances are that you know someone that has a mental health issue as according to the BBC, mental health problems affect 1 in 4 of us.
It is untrue that people with mental disorders are 'weak' or that they 'bring the problems on themselves'. In reality they are as ill as people with physical complaints.
People with mental disorders need friendship and understanding, just like everyone else, not isolated and left out because people think they are difficult to get on with.
In late 2008, a study conducted by the Nursing Times found that 90% of people suffering from mental health problems are affected by stigma and discrimination.
In Ancient Greece bodily signs or 'stigmata' were cut and burnt onto people's bodies to mark them as different. People with mental disorders are no longer physically mutilated, but critical or derogatory attitudes can be just as damaging to them. You only have to open a newspaper, switch on the TV or go to the cinema to spot such attitudes. While the media isn't wholly to blame for negative perceptions, every time a programme, article or film portrays a stereotype or fails to clear up a misunderstanding about a mental disorder, it helps to feed the myths.
A campaign by the Royal College of Psychiatrists aims to reduce the stigma attached to the six most common mental illnesses – severe depression, panic attacks, schizophrenia, dementia, eating disorders and alcohol and drug addiction. The campaign is linked to World Mental Health Day on 10 October, which is focusing on human rights and mental illness.