It is Mental Health Awareness Week, so on May 15th, the conversation at The Kickback was on Mental Health. Hosted by South London health service, OASIS, it was brilliant and enlightening conversation.
OASIS’ main focus is psychosis, working on prevention and supporting those who may be going through difficult experiences – “We’re a preventative service rather than a reactive service,” Isaac explained. Isaac also informed us that 1 in 3 people will hear a voice that other people have not heard.
Isaac’s colleague Sharon began by asking us what we think gets in the way of people asking for help regarding their mental health. Beverly responded by saying, “They don’t think they need it,” while Gus thinks that it sometimes has to do with ego. Caroleen from OASIS also added, “It can be scary admitting something is wrong.”
“A huge thing are the stigmas that are concerned… Mental health is just health,” Lee shared. He also added that when you mention mental health in the BME Community, people automatically think of mental health problems.
Isaac then asked how we could work on that, to which Lee responded that things like The Kickback were a start – “We need to create more spaces for young people to express themselves about what concerns them.” He also added, “As long as we dis-empower people in our society, we’re going to have problems.”
Isaac also shared the options available at OASIS with us: Key working, medication and psychology. Sharon then proceeded to ask us what we would say psychology is and how we would describe it.
Gus believes that it is also more of a study of the brain than the mind, because the brain and the mind are different things. I shared that I think psychology is the science of people, while Lee agrees that it is definitely a social science.
We also spoke about the link between culture and mental health – “Here in Britain, hearing voices is seen as a negative thing, but in many cultures that is very positive,” said Caroleen. This was in correlation to a point Isaac was making about psychosis, when he said that hearing a voice may not have an impact on someone’s day, but that it might affect the day-to-day of someone else.
The reference to culture led to Lee bringing up the media – “I’ve never seen a positive campaign about schizophrenia.” Gus added that he thinks TV is a weapon, and he thinks “an issue with mental health is how you’re being fed, whether that’s in TV or the rest of the media.” Lee also expressed, “We can create the change, because the way the world has developed has enabled us to have a bigger voice.”
I wanted to get a better idea of what psychosis was, so I asked what psychosis was; however, Caroleen first wanted to know how we would describe it. KB thought that it was hypnotising someone, Gus thought that it was deep thinking of something, and Anil thought it was crazy things in your head. Anil then went on to share his own experience of dealing with real life psychosis, which was powerful.
Before revealing what psychosis was, Isaac first spoke about unusual experiences, which included hearing a voice other people don’t hear, which some individuals may be quite troubled by and could affect their work or relationships. He explained that if someone was having an experience of psychosis, the unusual experiences would be more distressing. “It’s all about severity,” Isaac said, as hearing a voice could be at risk of psychosis or it could be psychosis.
Caroleen went a little deeper, saying that the experiences and voices are different for everyone – “Some people may hear 10 voices, some may hear lots of voices, some may just think people are out to get them.” Lee also said that some people may see things, and Sharon explained that “when you keep things in, those beliefs can get bigger… It’s related to our stress really.” It blew my mind to learn how broad psychosis is and that are so many elements involved.
As we spoke about how deterioration in mental health may occur, Isaac said that “maybe there’s something in people not trusting mental health services.” Lee responded by saying, “It’s hard to trust the system though,” as he sees going for a psychological assessment as a much more revealing process than a physical examination, before going on to share his own personal experience with mental health professionals.
I personally wanted to know why the stigma around mental health seems to be even higher in men. Gus thinks it may have been exaggerated by “our experiences and existences,” as “guys don’t really talk about their feelings at all.” Anil believes that “sometimes it’s an ego thing,” while Rosie believes men are not raised to talk about their issues.
“Times have changed, but human beings haven’t. Women have always been more expressive creatures,” Lee said. However, Beverly expressed that “lots of women aren’t talking these days,” which Rosie was in some agreement with – “Because we are in a slightly unbalanced society, women are still getting shut out of the conversation.”
Beverly also thinks that it might be society, as “some things are seen as normal and some things are unnormal.” Gus also believes that “something natural has been perverted,” as it seems like there is a dead spectrum for men – “You only see anger or joy.”
Lee made a very interesting point, saying, “Social media is controlling the narrative. It’s a self-gravitating world we’re living in and it’s effecting our psyche.”
There were a number of other things covered and touched upon, but I’m going to conclude with a key statement made by Beverly: “There are so many things that make your mental health matter.”
The Kickback returns on June 19th, when it will be joining with Poetic Insight for Croydon’s Festival of Peace. It’s going to be a very special event, so stay tuned for more information.
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