Nine in 10 people with experience of complex mental illness have faced stigma and discrimination in relationships with family and friends. Martin’s experiences of mental health stigma with his family stopped him from reaching out and getting help when he needed it.
I have suffered from mental trauma since childhood, having been sent to boarding schools from the age of eight to 18, although my parents always lived at home.
At school I suffered physical and institutional abuse. However, the worst part of my childhood was what I call “emotional poverty”, as a family we were very well off materially, but feelings were never talked about.
My parents knew I did not like boarding school (I was told this after they died; I had no inkling), however no attempt was made to ask me if I wanted to change schools.
For my gap year, in 1976, I went to work in a homeless shelter less than 100 yards from the Royal Mile. Obviously, the conditions were the total opposite to what I knew, however the men, once they knew you, were very friendly and I used to sit and chat with them on the pavements in the Grassmarket. They even came and waited outside music venues to escort me back as they knew I had no street sense.
Obviously, this blew my mind and I went my separate ways from family and was disinherited. Then, out of the blue, my brother took his own life and I blamed myself as I thought my parents would rather it have been me, but I realised that I was committed to a natural life sentence as I could not put my loved ones through what I did. I tried to talk to my parents about it, but was told we don’t talk about it.
Until I received my diagnosis of dementia, my despair was very real, however once diagnosed I knew that was the worst so actually felt liberated and feel able to shout out and try to show society that anyone can struggle with mental health issues; even public school pupils.
I also feel people don’t understand the loneliness that rural life can bring; my brother was a farmer, and if only he had had a helpline. Things are getting better (this was early 90’s), but society has to understand that spending a bit more now on mental health will save much, much more financially as well as in human lives. When someone takes their own life that is not the end of societal cost; just the beginning.