archives, you & me

Why Does the Tar Stick on Mental Health Sufferers?


A balanced diet, a balanced approach and a balanced mind — balance is the integral word to successful modern-day life.

What happens though, when, through no fault of your own, let’s call it randomness, decides to pick on you and deny you this wonderful moderator? When inconsistency, irrationality, unpredictability become your unwanted friends?

It is easy to find a scapegoat and blame, it is the lame person’s way out of a problem. But to stand up for an issue and take action? That is noble.

The voice surrounding the tricky subject of mental health is getting slightly louder, but it is not being heard by those who plough monies into research or scientific studies. The progress of curing mental health conditions is startlingly slow.

You and I supposedly have conversations about our mental health now. There are the Disability Discrimination Act and Equality Act in the UK which protect us. The young Royals have made it one of their missions to highlight this once neglected subject. Businesses have taken up the gauntlet to try to understand the challenges that mental health conditions pose to their workforce.

Perhaps you consider me to be another fashionable commentator on this topic? Except I have lived with a mental health condition for over a quarter of a century. Denied a university education, an initial strained adult relationship with close family, lost friends, lost love, struggled and mistrusted in my career. This is a weighty list, which I, sometimes, do not care to be reminded of.

There is, however, an element of it could not have been helped, and I have done the best I could with the resources and support available to me.

In middle age, I still have simmering anger towards mental health injustices. Notably, the support students receive at university, the scathing and accusatory language towards people with mental health conditions in the media, and the lack of sympathy sufferers receive in general.

Invariably, I hear sufferers get the blame for what they did not ask for. Conversations with podiatrists, psychiatrists, colleagues have all led to the similar places: ‘Well, he does suffer from a mental illness’ or ‘You can imagine how the parents feel’ or the unqualified and disrespectful diagnosis from others.

Why does the tar stick on mental health sufferers?

Having lived a life and witnessed others’ pain, I realize people have different circumstances and everyone’s life journeys are challenging. Ought I to return to my first synopsis of mental ill health? Inconsistency, irrationality, unpredictability.

People are not interested whether you work hard or you are not striving towards a goal. They can make fun of you if your sense of logic is not sound. The big thing seems to lie in the term unpredictable. This is a loaded word, and has connotations of someone turning on you, and possibly, becoming violent.

My friendship group is wide and broad, but of the friends who do suffer from mental health conditions, none has ever become a physical threat. As we mature, we learn to handle ourselves better — know when to take time out, listen to meditation music, speak to a non-judgmental independent person and stick up for ourselves.

It seems I am not the only one who thinks this way. In the Lancet Journal, a reputable medical journal, on 1 December 2018, one serious mental illness is described as ‘a major under-addressed public health problem’. At the end of the article, they argue that any results would be ‘money well-spent’ and ‘worth the effort’.

I listened to the calming words of my father at 17 years old, when he stated that the brilliant scientists of the world would find a cure for my condition. Over the years, I owe my dad at lot for his expert advice and transferred resilience, but it is time, with a small cohort of experienced, wiser mental health sufferers, to lay the foundations for the younger generation.

It is time to drum up research funding, understand the biochemistry of the brain, and make inroads into mind-related illnesses. The cure, I concede, will not be discovered in my lifetime, but we do need to start making scientific inroads. Only then will the stigma and unnecessary suffering end and true human equality will reign.


Since joining a writing group at work at a London University, Keri France has become more productive. She now has 20 published articles and a short story to her credit. Currently working on various projects. Keri surrounds herself with real, creative people, and is fascinated by people who surprise and choose what they want to be.


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