A Touchy Subject

Three words often showing up in the media at the moment is mental health awareness. It seems every time I open a news app or even Facebook there is an article, meme, poster or cartoon dedicated to this issues. It is the big buzz word on everyone's lips, but why only now?

Mental health issues have been around as far back as human history, however for most of this time it has been treated as something unholy or dirty; something we don't really talk about.

Even well respected leaders like Winston Churchill suggested barring people with mental illness and learning disabilities from getting married and called for them to be sterilised, saying "the multiplication of the feeble-minded is a very terrible danger to the race." However, it is now widely thought that Churchill himself battled with bipolar-disorder or manic depression, as it use to be know. He has even been credited with coining the phrase Black Dog, in reference to depression but this is still being debated among historians.

These days there is a big push in the media to promote mental health awareness, celebrities are coming forward and openly talking about their own struggles and encouraging others to do the same. Hospitals and care facilities are being scrutinised and are encouraged to deliver person centered care tailored to each patient's needs. Even the young British Royals are openly supporting Mental Health charities and encouraging people to end the stigma attached to mental illness. Their Heads Together movement encourages everyone to be open about the struggles they face and to ask for help when they need it.

In our house mental health is not a buzz word, it is a normal part of everyday life. My husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his late teens, and was open about his struggle from the start of our relationship. Since then I am always trying to find out as much as I can about bi-polar and the treatments available, but even after twenty years of marriage I still feel like a  novice grasping at straws.

The thing about bipolar is that it is a mean, selfish, destructive monster that loves nothing more than to torment sufferers and make them feel worthless, unloved and alone. It sometimes takes a step back into the shadows just long enough for sufferers to catch a ray of sunlight and a glimmer of hope while it sits and waits with an evil grin on it's face waiting for us to relax before it pounces on our loved ones and drags them down to the ground again while we stand by helplessly trying to find a way to chase it off.

Author J.K. Rowling personified depression in creating the Dementors in her Harry Potter books, creatures that make you feel "as if you will never be happy again." The only way to feel better again is to eat chocolate, unfortunately there is no cure for bipolar, no one magic pill to fix everyone. The best we can hope for is that we can find a way to manage this disorder and break down the stigma around it so that our loved ones can enjoy some peace, and see how much they are loved and valued.