Talking about mental illness

It has now been established that we all, at some time in our life, will come into contact with somebody suffering from a mental illness. The word ‘mental’ is key here, as if somebody we knew had cancer, or diabetes or some other such illness, we wouldn’t think twice about going up to them and asking them how they were and showing our concern for their health.

Mental illness, however, is a completely different ball game, and the majority of us are worried about approaching a sufferer and asking after them for fear of saying the wrong thing, or how they may react. A campaign backed by the COI aims to address this problem and has released a short film encouraging all of us to talk openly about mental illness and remove the stigma that is still attached to it.

The video shows a workplace and one guy spots a workmate, Dave, who has been off for a long time with a mental illness. This guy is undecided about whether to speak to Dave as he doesn’t know how he will react. As Dave approaches him he decides to speak to him and asks him how’s he’s doing.

There are then two scenarios which we presume are how the guy is imagining that Dave would react. In the first one he starts to speak, then uses his shoe to take a phone call. In the second he disappears into a pile of dust, and the third, which is the real one, has him saying that he’s okay, he has good days and bad days, and he thanks the guy for asking.

You will not offend a mental health sufferer by asking them how they are, much better that than ignoring them, or avoiding them, which only goes to add to the stigma. People with a mental illness are just ordinary people whose health problems are mental instead of physical, so don’t be afraid to approach them.