It is mental health awareness week as of the writing of this blog post. Mental Health Awareness week, which runs from 11th to the 17th May is run by the Mental Health Foundation. The Mental Health Foundation is a Charity that helps to improve the lives of those with mental health problems or learning disabilities. The Mental Health Foundation is involved in research, service development and providing information on mental health.
If you wish to see the video. Below is the video version of this blog post
I feel Mental Health Awareness week is important for quite a few reasons, the first reason is obviously raising the awareness of mental health and it does not have to be on mental ill health. I once had a discussion with mental health campaigner Fiona Art who specified that mental health does not have to centre itself around those who are unfortunately mentally unwell or those with live experience.
Welcome back to another blog post on mental health carers and to be honest, sometimes I just post on general mental health to raise awareness. I do not want to give those relying on carers a bad name, but I felt this time I should post on how easy it is for carers to risk burning themselves out while providing care.
However it does depend on the service user situation, not all mental health problems demand a high level of care, but alas for some families and carers, they will have to try and provide care for the long term. If this is the case, what are the issues? What are the risks for carer fatigue, burnout and stress?
Welcome to another blog post from Matthew Mckenzie a carer in Lewisham, On the 13th of March I took a trip over to the Albany theatre in Lewisham. I heard there was a play regarding the journey of a young black man through the mental health system. I had booked my tickets to see the play. The play was called “So you think I am Crazy” and I heard the play was shown over in the London Borough of Croydon and also played at the Maudsley Learning Centre in 2014.
Here is a video of the review if you wish to sit and watch instead of having to also read the blog.
I was very excited to at last have a chance to see the play which is directed and written by Ekanem Hines. The play on Friday also got a donation by Quo Vadis Trust & Equinox Lewisham. The play originated from a group of carers. On that evening the play sold out as news travelled about how good the play was. The play delivered various songs, powerful thought provoking scenes and rap throughout the night, however being a carer myself of someone who uses the mental health services, what were my thoughts about the play?
I do not want to spoil the play, but I felt it was very hard hitting. Half way through the play you actually begin to wonder about the title of the play “So you think I am crazy?”. You begin to question to yourself if not only the mental health system, but also society would need to take a long hard look at itself. Each scene looked deeply at the intentions of those who are unfortunately struggling to work out who is unwell and the reasons for the illness, but the resources are clearly not provided to tackle the stigma and discrimination within society and the mental health system.
As I sat throughout the play thinking how easy it would be for me to turn from carer to someone using the services, plus the added stigma of me as a black male. I would be lying if the system had not judged me for being unpredictable, maybe violent, untrust worthy and even so far to go as crazy. Still, throughout the play I felt proud that I have kept my patience with those who have judge and will continue to judge based on my own difficult journey as a carer.
The problem is that society takes strong and caring people, breaks them down and many end up within the mental health system where many are vulnerable. To make matters even more difficult, they have to focus on recovery and yet many in society will continue to judge those who are not only broken in spirit, but also in the mind. So thus we have the added stigma and discrimination of those who not only behave unwell, but are deemed to look out of place.
As I sat on the panel at the end of the play, I was proud and delighted to sit next to prominent figures such as
I thought long and hard about my answer to the audience as deep thought provoking questions and answers were explored about the theme of the play and tackling such difficult subjects. My answer to the audience is that each time we seek to understand the battle between mental health, race and society, we can only gain from this.
We need to congratulate ourselves for taking the time to understand other people’s journeys. We must EDUCATE ourselves and question prejudice, stigma and discrimination, hence the title of the group “kNow My Mind”. If we take the time to learn about mental health, raise awareness and tackle stigma then we can truly battle the idea of who is crazy and who isnt.