Consultant Psychiatrist from The Priory Dr. Mark Collins delivers a general introduction to mental ilness. 'It is amazing that in 2011 in England that a sizeable proportion of the population still thinks that mental illness doesn't exist.'
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I am a teacher in the UK and sadly, 4 years ago I lost my job due to depression. I was fired after 3 months off work. I was ill, and they dragged me into meeting after meeting after meeting. My union was outraged and supported me the entire way. Yes, I could have gone to an employment tribunal, but I was too ill to even contemplate it and they knew that, so knew that I wouldn't have the strength to keep battling on.
I'm afraid to say that in the teaching profession in England, depression is viewed as a weakness. It was a devastating experience and served only to lengthen and intensify my illness, and I will never forgive those involved; the headteacher, the governors and the HR personnel at the local authority.
And I keep thinking... 1 in 4, 1 in 4, 1 in 4. And I wonder, who amongst them is suffering now?
I am an academic, well still for now... A mixture of depression and anxiety that have been accumulating over several years (I can see it only in retrospect, I wish I could see it when it was piling up). As this process was going on my ability to write academic sort of things had been declining gradually. It was becoming harder and harder and I did not really notice it until I finally finished my PhD thesis, bearly... I thought I did not enjoy the topic, if only I could finish this and get on with the things I really like. Then I was very lucky to get a job in a good university, moved countries for this and now ... I have a writing block. I have won small grants that allowed me to travel to places that I wanted to study and collect some data. But I cannot write anything about this. I have a writing block. So the change of topic to what I really like did not help... clearly depression and anxiety have more to do with the block than the topic. I don't even feel I like any topics any more. The liking feeling seems to be buried deep inside.
I made some effort and finished a couple of papers that were nearly finished from the study years. It turned all my guts inside out and back in to do this. It was so incredibly stressful to get those papers finished. It felt like I had to push myself into a dark tiny coffin under the ground to do that. And I am terrified of the thought of having to go there again. So avoid the papers.
When I tried getting close to them, start reading something, getting ideas down I start feeling intense fear and sometimes anger. Not very enjoyable feelings and as hard as it is to write multiply the difficulty by who knows how much. So seems like an impossible task. Why try if it is impossible. Isn't that a vicious cycle?!
I cannot keep my job without writing academic papers. But I love my job, I love so many aspects of it. And I now deep down I like research too. It is just burried under the piles of fear and anger. They say it takes time to recover from depression. Time certianly helps. But i am on probation and the clock is ticking. So time is one thing I don't have much of. Something's gotta give here, clearly....
Tasha, You really need to discuss this with your manager, to make them aware of the difficulty and why you are having it - i.e. the depression. (If you've not done so yet, get a formal diagnosis!) Your employer is legally obliged not to discriminate against you in these circumstances; but in any case, you've at least a 1 in 4 chance your boss will not just be sympathetic but empathetic because s/he may once have been in the same situation! But unless you are open about this, no one will think of giving you any latitude; but that extra space seems to be what you need, to take off some of the pressure you are feeling, some of that "I must do this now..." Funny thing is, when the pressure is taken off you, there's a good chance you'll be hitting your targets anyway but without the trauma and drag.
For what it'd worth, I have a wee bit more than an inclining of what you are facing. I struggled with every damned assignment for my Masters for much the same reason. What made it worse was that my mind was so muddled with it that I struggled to comprehend the theory side of my subject, which was creative writing. I scraped through each of the theory essays, pnly lifing my overall marks with the peer review creative work. That period kicked off my first novel; after 15 years, the bl##dy thing is still unfinished. Guess why? I bet you can!
I read in today's 'The Irish News', (a northern ireland newspaper), a report about Ruby's depression and her experience of depression. I was previously aware of her live tour through the media but never had the chance to see her show. I felt I had to just write some thing and communicate with people who understand. I am here and you are there. Thank you Dr Mark Collins, Ruby Wax, and all of us.
Lets make something of this.
Write something...dr mark reminds me of my consultant psychiatrist he knows what depression can do to a person and unfortunately i have not met many people who understand it apart from the people i meet at my art group. start is a mental health charity which has expanded recently and they now do lots of other things and there are hundreds of people that go there mostly are mentally ill. it has been a godsend to me and lots of other people without it i dont know where we would be. sonia m
Art Therapy has made my life that bit better after my Breakdown.
Hated my job, bullied relentlessly and now around people that understand that have suffered from mental health or still are and we help one another out.
Write something...great words indeed i dont suffer myself but my husband did he killed himsely last september i am awaiting the inquest now the nhs was not any help and he poor soul thout he would only be ill 3 weeks i am crying as i write this it took 3 years b4 the illness took him and even i thout my love 4 him would be able save him but not so i could go on but some thing has 2 change cos i fear thing will get worse good luck 2 you all x di
wish Dr Collins was my Shrink.
It's a great relief to understand that depression is a physical illness of the brain.
Empirically science can demonstrate that depression is 'real'. Trouble is, our culture doesn't recognise depression, as Dr. Mark states.
That's very true. In every area of my life from work and scoial life/friends through to dealing with benefits there is a startling view that depression is not a real illness and if it was it can be overcome by willpower alone.
So true. I once worked in a very high-status lab, and was damn good at my job. Foolishly thought that being surrounded by the top medics & scientists in the country, that they would understand. When I had to take a few weeks off work in order to get meds sorted out and stabilised, I was fired in my absence. Boss said that nobody with a 'mental defect' was ever going to stay in her laboratory.
If you cannot rely on the 'experts' to see the reality, what hope for everyone else? I haven't worked now in two years, and not sure I ever will again.
Great words Dr. Mark, thanks for the inspiration.
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