Tag Archive | stigma

Depression Awareness Week

Some people may not know that this week is Depression Awareness Week, and while I have always been a few days late to the parties for mental health awareness scheduled events because I am in a state of constant vigilance (hats off to Alastor Moody!), it’s important to mark this one.

I’ve been having a rough time where pain is at a constant eight and every day I wonder what’s the point of getting out of bed when the duvet just seems too heavy to even bother.  My dissertation and pressing exam revision are not helping this any…but that’s beside the point.  The point is that the more people that are aware of depression and willing to put a stop to the stigma surrounding mental health afflictions and treatments, the more people will be open to caring about those who suffer from those diseases and the less people like me will feel ostracised and isolated because their pain never ebbs away from an eight.

So, I guess, I realise why there isn’t a greetings card that wishes people a Happy Depression Awareness Week but there should be, because it’s a time when depressed and other mentally ill people feel like the world gives a shit and is at least attempting to understand the fog of rubbish that percolates in our broken brains.  This is why I’ve designed my own card and am sharing it with all of you, with my best wishes and hope for the summer of 2k15.

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LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

24-04-2015

Time to Change & Time to Talk Day

For those of you who do not know, Time to Talk Day was four days ago and I missed it!  However, as someone who keeps a blog on mental health and is extremely open about her own problems in that area, I feel I have given more than a year’s worth of five minutes talking about my depression, anxiety disorder and mythomania.  So, it gives me great pleasure – and I thank him very much for opting to give his five minutes to LaBellaBorgia Speaks – to introduce you to the writing of Jack again, who has written very well and to great effect here previously.

P. Mistry-Norman


You may remember me, I wrote here previously about my experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder (https://labellaborgia.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/living-with-borderline-personality-disorder/). For those, however, who do not, my name is Jack Jeffreys. I am twenty three. I live with Borderline Personality Disorder and Rapid Cycling Mood Disorder (Bipolar).

Today I want to talk about Time To Change, a charity aiming to reduce and eradicate mental health stigma. Today, 5th February, is Time To Talk Day. The idea is that you take five minutes to discuss mental health – so get a cup of tea because I’m taking my five minutes with you all now. However, I do not really want to talk about my mental health. I want to talk about the work Time To Change do, and why I think it is vital. Vital in the present, and vital in the future. In our generation and for generations to come.

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I work with Time To Change through the Advocacy Project based in St. Charles Square, Ladbroke Grove. I do not get to spend a huge amount of time with them because of work, but I give them as many days off as I can afford. We go to public areas, and set up cafes. People can never turn down free tea and cake, and in return we discuss mental health with them. This always starts very one sided, but by the end it completely flips and I am left listening to the random member of the public. This is because so many people have a lived experience of mental health.

One in four people in the UK suffer from mental health “issues”. You have to remember mental health is a sliding scale from suffering from stress, through anxiety and depression, up to addiction, personality, obsessive, psychiatric, neurotic, eating, or mood disorders. When you think of it like this one in four does not sound so extreme.

At Time To Change we aim to challenge people’s views on mental health, and bring them into the twenty first century. We discuss statistics: one in six people in work in the UK have a mental health condition, and roughly 11% of the population is on anti-depressants. We discuss people like Stephen Fry and Winston Churchill, who suffer/suffered with Bipolar; Jim Carrey, who suffers with depression; Heath Ledger, who suffered with drug abuse; and John Prescott, who suffered with Bulimia. We aim to make mental health something that everyone can relate to. We aim to make mental health less scary.

Once we get into a discussion with people, they often start asking questions about mental health. There are some very common mental health myths.

Myth: If you suffer from a mental health condition you can be violent and unpredictable.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health condition makes you no more violent than anyone else. Only 3-5% of violent attacks are attributed to mental health, and when you consider that 25% of people suffer with some form of mental health, the myth does not really add up. In fact, it actually works the other way. In the US, you are ten times more likely to be a victim of violent crime if you suffer from mental health.

Myth: If you suffer from mental health problem you can snap out of it if you try hard enough.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health conditions has very little to do with being a weak person, it often requires help, in some form, to get better. Different forms of therapy help different conditions, generally. Mindfulness is the real mental health buzz word/therapy at the moment. Many factors attribute to mental health problems, such as biological factors (genetics or injury) or life experience (trauma and abuse). Many people recover from mental health conditions, but you cannot put time on this. There is no rule for how long it takes to get better; it is not the same as a broken leg.

Myth: YOU cannot help someone with a mental health condition.

Fact: I know a lot of people with mental health conditions. The little things mean the most. Friends telling them they are there to help or helping them access mental health services. Treating them with respect, just like anyone else. Generally being a friend or family member, just how you were, before mental health became an issue. Refusing to allow someone to be defined by diagnosis – I am bipolar but I do not have to act that way. And making it a ‘normal’ thing.

Myth: All you need to do is take tablets.

Fact: This works for some people. But for lots of people this is not the whole answer. A combination of therapy and medication is important. In some cases medication is not even required. I believe anti-depressants are drastically over prescribed by the NHS. This is because of an ever reducing mental health budget.

Myth: Children do not experience mental health problems.

Fact: Half of all mental health disorders show first signs by the age of fourteen, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before the age of twenty four.

There are many more than this, but these are the most common myths we hear.

The important thing about Time To Change is the attempt to normalize mental health. Mental health is not going to disappear. In the high stress world that many people live in, it will only become more prevalent. And without wanting to make this political, under the current government, treatment is becoming less available. Therefore it is vital we are in a position to help each other.

I guess I am urging you to avoid awkward conversations, and to be that person who talks openly about mental health. Go and do research. Find out the truth. Do not shy away from it. If you have a friend or a family member who suffers with any form of mental health, break down the invisible barriers that exist in society, and talk about it. Mental health is not something to be scared or threatened by.

To conclude, I make no apology for not talking about my mental health. If you know me, or have read what I written previously, you will know I am very open and will discuss anything you want to know about me. Today is not about my mental health. It is about building a foundation for our generation, and generations to come. A foundation that allows our friends and family to feel comfortable speaking out and seeking help. Start talking about mental health. Go and have another cup of tea. Go and talk about it over dinner. I’ve taken my five minutes today. Now go and take yours.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

J. Jeffreys

09-02-2015

Words of a Friend

After the last hugely successful post, I have given my next slot to a great friend and my flatmate at university from last year so she can offer her words of vast wisdom.  As far as mental health goes, it not only affects those who suffer from related illnesses but those around them, so I wanted to give one of them a voice here – I’m just fortunate her writing is so good! There are some great articles coming up from a varying and interesting bunch of people, so stick around!

Happy Armistice Day,

P. Mistry-Norman


Last year, I was lucky enough to spend a year of my life sharing a flat with Pippa. It was a privilege – and not only was she a fantastic flatmate but she has taught me huge amounts about being a friend. With what little knowledge I have, I wanted to write this post for people who, like me, just want to help but don’t quite know how – and, at the same time, to let those suffering know that we want to help, but just don’t quite know how. None of us are alone.

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I’m sure that I have had, and possibly still have, a whole range of misconceptions about mental health, and apologise in advance (please forgive me) for any that crop up in this post. I, like the rest of the world, admittedly have shockingly little awareness of the subject, and I can’t be more thankful to this blog and so many others for helping to give me some.

In my 21 years on this earth I have been fortunate enough never to have suffered from mental health issues. Then again, I’m no stranger to them. A whole host of my friends, relatives, loved ones, colleagues and acquaintances have struggled to cope with them – and it’s likely that over a quarter of my friends and family will at some point, if they haven’t already, have mental health problems. And I am, or will be, one of three quarters they will turn to for help.

When they do, I almost always feel under-qualified to offer it. I’m no psychiatrist, I’m no upstanding member of the community and my life experience is minimal. I don’t know how it feels to feel utterly lost in my own skin. That one time, when someone tells you they want to die, you don’t always know what to say.

The thing is, though, nobody expects you to know what to say. That friend who’s suffering does not expect essays of wisdom to suddenly put meaning into their life, you can’t out-logic their depression, you can’t make sense of it through your own eyes because the issue is theirs and nothing on this earth can make you understand. All you need to do, all you can do is be there. Listen, if and when they’re ready to talk. And if they’re not, then let them know where you are, keep an eye out, check in on them and let them do their thing. Don’t push it.

The biggest mistake that anyone makes in trying to help someone with mental health issues (that I have made countless times), is making it your personal responsibility to make things better. And by the same logic, is it never your fault on those occasions when you can’t help. As heart-breaking as the fact is, there will be – and for me, there have been – times when you just can’t help, when you can’t do enough, when you can’t see the signs. You cannot let yourself feel guilty for it. The weight of the world was never designed to rest on your shoulders.

What we can do, is be part of the wider network. Be a kind face, a thoughtful text or Facebook like to let them know we’re thinking of them, that they can come round for tea, come out for a drink or go silent for a week and we’ll still be there. We can teach our children and grandchildren to think of mental health as no more alien than physical health, and let those suffering know that it’s ok not to be fine.

Because I am not a psychiatrist – I’m a friend. Sometimes a friend is all they need.

And one day, when you need it most, they’ll be there for you.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

S. Strand

11-11-2014

Living With Borderline Personality Disorder

I am starting to invite and ask some of my friends, family and acquaintances if they would like to and feel able to write something for this blog.  I will still keep writing articles for it, however, it is important to me that many people get a platform to express similar things about what they know about mental health and all that encompasses.  So, with great pleasure I am giving my first guest post slot to a former schoolmate of mine with whom I share many great memories playing brass together and especially as this comes a day before Remembrance Sunday when we used to play at the services together, it is well timed!  I found what he has written incredibly moving and insightful and I trust that all who read this article will too.

Enjoy my guest series!

P. Mistry-Norman


Hi, my names Jack. I am six foot six, twenty stone, I work a normal office job, and have a girlfriend. I live as “normal” a life as it is possible to when you are twenty two and living in Shoreditch. Unless I’m wearing short sleeves you would have no idea that I suffer with mental health. In face you would have no idea that many of my close friends, from periods I have spent in hospital, suffer from mental health.

I must precede this by saying I find it very hard to explain what I go through to people. I also find it very hard to remember when things have gone bad what has happens. Sometimes I disassociate or hallucinate, and the world becomes a blur. If you knew me you would know that my thick Essex/cockney accent does not lend itself well to being a man of words.

Pippa asked me to talk about my experiences with bipolar and borderline personality disorder. I’m not going to talk about bipolar, I make no apologies; it is a well documented, reasonably well understood condition. Maybe I will discuss if I receive a further invite from Pippa.

Being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder is the first time mental health made sense to me. Many people I am friends with dislike diagnoses, and at first so did I, but it has enabled me to understand myself better.

BPD is an awful name for a condition. The borderline comes from the border between neurosis and psychosis, which I would argue is not true of the diagnosis now; I would also argue it is not something that affects personality completely; nor would I say it’s a disorder. In Europe it is called Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. Maybe this is currently the most accurate depiction of the condition, although still far from perfect.

There are nine borderline traits, but really what we are getting at is the idea of someone who is all-or-nothing emotionally, empty or full. Typically this is categorized in several areas of life. Doctors might look at addiction (all), suicide (all and nothing – dialectic), self harm (the same as suicide), unstable relationships (normally as a result of all and nothing) and emptiness (nothing).

This is most effectively treated with dialectical behavior therapy. A type of therapy that basically stops you reaching one (out of ten) when your down and self harming or attempting suicide, and helps control yourself and your impulsivity at nine (out of ten). This is because a “normal” person may move daily between four and six. A person with depression may spend a long period of time at two or three, before a period of time moving between four and six, and then return to two or three. A person with bipolar may spend a period at two or three then a period at seven or eight. And a person with BPD is constantly moving between one and nine, the extremes.

You may think that my mentioning of self harm and suicide is excessive. Self harm is very common in people with BDP. I have some very close friends with BDP, and I do not know anyone with BDP who has not self harmed in some way. It is worth noting that a therapist would not only consider cutting or burning yourself as self harm, but restricting eating would also be considered. There are many ways to self harm. 10% of people diagnosed with BDP die from suicide, and up to 80% of people diagnosed with BDP attempt suicide. I have attempted suicide twice and I self harmed. I have a huge amount to say on self harm. It is a fascinating topic and an example of someone being incredibly aggressive to themselves.

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When I work with Time To Change and talk to people about BDP I talk to people about the everyday problems I come up against. I think to talk straight away about the suicide and self harm is going in at the deep end. Now, I do not self harm every day, and I do not buy pills and attempt suicide daily either. I have spent a relatively long period of time in therapy as an inpatient and an outpatient at hospitals. I have gone through a relatively short period of DBT (it recommended that DBT is developed over a two year period and I am currently six months into my DBT course).

I struggle with the little things daily. I do not want to generalize, and stereotype myself by a label or a condition, but people with BPD struggle to regulate emotions, as would be suggested by the European name given to the condition. It can only be a little thing at work that can set me off on a very quick downward spiral. I miss out the stage of feeling just sad. I go from okay to working out where I can buy pills and how to commit suicide very quickly. I am at a stage where I do not act out however. Through skills like mindfulness I can begin to regulate my response, in the hope that one day my emotions will middle out. It equally happens the other way. It only takes the first three seconds of Alive by Chase & Status to send me to a place of pure ecstasy. I start jamming away in the corner of the office where my desk is and I start planning where I can get a drink or start wondering if it might be a good idea to start taking drugs again. It really is all or nothing. I very rarely spend any time in the middle. Through mindfulness I really can control my responses though and it would be almost impossible to someone that did not know me to tell where I was between one and nine. I almost never act out on my impulsive or negative thoughts now. I was once at a stage where I would self harm or buy pills, and equally I have had periods in my life where I would use drugs excessively.

The fact that I will come up sharply from any down I experience I really consider to be a blessing that people with depression unfortunately do not experience, and I think that is a shame for them. I never spend a day completely down. In fact I am so in tune with myself emotionally that I know I will probably come up at about three o’clock every afternoon. And with a couple of double espressos and a dose of Chase & Status I can pretty much guarantee it’s going to happen. My therapists tells me I should be careful when I turn (as a bipolar may describe it) “manic”. But I promise you it is a great experience, and if you can control the impulsivity, I think it is there to be enjoyed. I definitely try and kick myself into, and maintain myself, in a “manic” state when I get the opportunity.

Another trait is the constant fear of abandonment. She may not know it but I am lucky to have a very understanding girlfriend who helps me control this. It is something I have suffered from badly in the past and as a result can make me a very intense person to spend time with, and without. I become scared if someone I am close to does not reply to a text within five minutes, and never expect just one missed call, I will call until you answer. Even going to the toilet when I am in a club alone will spark a fear that I will come out and everyone has disappeared. I hate doing anything alone on the fear that I will return to no one.  Unless I am desperate I would rather not go. It might seem like a little thing, a daft thing, but it’s the little daily things that I think make mental health difficult.

Every story must finish with a good ending however. BPD is a condition with a very good prognosis. Once diagnosed, psychiatrists can begin to medicate through drugs and therapy. Drugs can take some time to get correct. I am not sure where psychiatrists stand on anti-depressants for BDP, but for Rapid Cycling Mood Disorder (the type of bipolar I suffer from) anti-depressants can destabilize. Anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers are the drugs of choice for BPD, and once the right combination for the patient is found, these can be very affective. And, of course, a course of DBT is hugely affective. Once treated there is a very prognosis that it is a condition that the person can deal with, with the skills learned. And that is the good news. It’s not easy, but it’s achievable.

In conclusion BDP is a fascinating condition that I would advise you to look into. With the help of people like Brandon Marshall (an American Football player for my beloved Chicago Bears), and Time To Change it is becoming an increasingly talked about subject. And I hope that continues. And finally I refer to my first paragraph. I stated how I appear “normal” and you would not know that many of my friends suffer with mental health. I said that because I truly believe that suffering with mental health makes someone no different from someone else. It is why I dislike the word disorder in BPD. Everyone is different and sometimes we require help with our differences but I reject the notion that there is something wrong with my personality, and I reject the notion that people with any mental health disorder should be subjected to any form of stigma. Suffering with mental health is not something to be afraid of, and it is not something others should be afraid of witnessing. It is fundamentally just the beautiful spectrum of humans and life.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

J. Jeffreys

08-11-2014