The stigma of mental illness

This post was prompted by the news that Jonathan Trott has returned home early from the Ashes tour as a result of a ‘long-standing stress-related condition’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cricket/25086761). Reading between the lines, this would point to a mental illness such as Marcus Trescothick’s depression which was described in 2006 as a ‘stress-related illness’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/england/6146688.stm) and at the time as prior to that as ‘personal reasons’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/england/4750328.stm) and a ‘virus’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/england/4897358.stm).

Obviously it is up to each individual to decide when and whether to disclose such personal medical information such as whether they have an illness of any kind and exactly what sort it is. But, I wonder whether hiding behind words such as ‘stress-related illness’ only increase the stigma surrounding mental illness.

My mother was a paranoid schizophrenic. The first time I revealed that to anyone other than the person I went on to marry (and then divorce) was when I was in my 20s, to my close friend Nick (and since then I tell pretty much anyone, if it’s relevant). Up to that point it was always something that wasn’t talked about (at least in my family). Not to my school friends, not (as I found out recently) even to my more extended relatives. The stigma of mental illness was strong then and is still strong now and is something that is just not talked about. Privacy is clearly an issue and no-one should divulge more information than they feel comfortable with but is hiding behind euphemisms only reinforcing that.

I have the utmost respect for people brave enough to stand up and state that they have a mental illness, as personally I think that talking about it will help to de-stigmatise it, and wish Jonathan Trott all the best with his recovery from his ‘long-standing stress-related condition’.

2 thoughts on “The stigma of mental illness

  1. Greg Harewood

    I think most of us don’t realize how close most of us are to mental illness. We’re not really designed for long term stress – fight or flight doesn’t cut it in modern society. Good post.

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