Here is an article from Quartz.com. It denotes the fact that mentally ill people are all around us and we may never know it. She states that there are many successful and talented people walking around who are depressed. She talks about a group in England that started up to walk together for anyone with a mental illness. It seems that giving this population a sense of community may be beneficial and may help us all to de-stigmatize the mentally ill.
I was pleased to read that she was planning to start a group in New York soon. For most if not all of the mentally ill, there is a terrible sense of loneliness fed by the very illness they are dealing with. I hope that she starts her walking group and that it flourishes and many more groups just like it pop up all over the U.S.
Please read the entire article to see if what she proposes makes good sense to you, too.
- September 11th, 2016
You don’t need to be told that mental illness is very, very common. There are statistics galore: One in five people in the US will experience mental illness this year. When considered over a lifetime, that figure rises to one in four people worldwide.
But it still doesn’t feel very normal. We’re surrounded by millions of people who look great, do brilliantly at work, and walk to the subway every day feeling totally trapped and isolated.
To help change this, my friend and former colleague Bryony Gordon has set up Mental Health Mates, a walking group in the UK for people with mental health issues. This fall, I’m setting up the organization’s first New York branch. We’ll meet at the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library by Prospect Park at 10:30am on the 25th of September. It’s not therapy, there won’t be professional advice, and those who come don’t have to talk about their problems—although of course they’re welcome to do so.
I love this group exactly because it isn’t formal or clinical. Professional treatment is an absolutely necessary and proper response to a mental illness diagnosis. Thankfully, the stigma has faded enough that most people now recognize that. But mental health doesn’t have to be a secret locked behind a doctor’s door. Indeed, Gordon’s second book, on her struggles with OCD, explores just how normal it is to be weird.
She says she started Mental Health Mates after hearing an old interview with the novelist Carson McCullers (who later died due to alcoholism) talking about how she felt like everyone was part of a “we” except for her. “I thought, ‘You were wrong, you were part of a we, you just didn’t know it,’” says Gordon.
Rationally, I understand that many people, including friends and colleagues, are quietly living and dealing with mental health issues. But during the two, thankfully brief, periods when I had depression, I forgot. I didn’t feel confident enough to talk about it until I was better. And yet when I did, nearly all of my friends told me that they too had experienced some period of mental illness.
Fostering this sense of a shared identity is important. The internet can be a useful tool, and there are many online support groups and forums for those looking to connect and talk. But this virtual openness hasn’t yet translated into openness in everyday life. Chris Barker is a professor of clinical psychology at University College London and a researcher who specializes in the benefits of both professional and non-professional psychological support. He notes that online support groups “can be very anonymous” and many members “feel a bit lost.”
In contrast, the social aspects of in-person relationships can provide real benefits. Seeing others with mental health issues creates a powerful sense of community. “There is de-stigmatization, there is empowerment, people feel less ashamed and embarrassed about their condition and feel stronger generally,” he says. “It normalizes their own problems to know other people feel similarly.”