I am a keen mental health advocate. Having suffered from anxiety, depression and an eating disorder myself, I know how hard hitting, soul destroying and heavy they can be. But in my search for people having more clarity over mental illnesses, I found myself wondering why we weren’t doing the same for mental Disabilities.
Mental Disabilities are where the brain is wired differently to that of a typical brain, causing behaviour, learning and social difficulties. Whereas with physical disabilities we can see the effect; for example, a wheel chair and skin damage, with mental Disabilities they are often invisible and we can’t see that the person is suffering.
Mental Disabilities are sometimes hard to diagnose, for example, it is hard to diagnose somebody with autism and the person may not get a diagnosis until later in life after having suffered through things which could have been avoided with a proper diagnosis and statement. Furthermore, whereas if you mention depression or bipolar to somebody they are likely to have a rough understanding, with things such as Autism and PDA, the traits are so vast that rarely people have an understanding at all.
The autistic spectrum is a spectrum so vast that it is rumoured that every single one of us holds traits from it. If you’re at the bottom of the spectrum, you may be slightly fussy and particular about things. If you’re at the top, you may have a meltdown before you say hello to somebody due to lack of social skills and the anxiety surrounding that. It is extremely diverse. One autistic person may have different traits and hurdles than another, not one is the same. Although Autism is getting more common and more diagnoses’ are being made, it is more common in boys as it is harder to diagnose in girls. It is also especially hard to diagnose from a young age. Traits may include fussiness, clingyness, an inability to perform socially, aggressive behaviour, obsessive natures towards certain things, a lack of self care, the inability to speak up and instead freeze and lock everything in, outspokenness and also, people with autism have a lower pain threshold and experience more feelings during painful situations due to their sensory system.
Autism is just one example of a mental disability, but it’s a big one. ADHD is another big one which is common, but is often treated as the “naughty child label.” There’s a lot of Stigma around ADHD that the person isn’t willing to learn, pay attention and wants to act up for fun. This is not the case. Especially in schools, a lot of teachers turn their noses to children with ADHD and put them straight into lower sets even though they may be highly intelligent.
With more parents on the hunt for help, more awareness and more support, it’s no surprise that NHS funded CAMHS is now full. Schools and doctors turn people with a diagnosis straight to them, leaving some people and parents believing it to be the only solution for their area.
Ideally, all mental issues should be being bought to light as all of them are invisible. And for mental Disabilities such as Aspergers Syndrome, they suffer double as much because their disability traits also include anxiety symptoms and depression symptoms. Next time you’re on a train and you see a person who may appear ‘odd’ or overly enthusistic, try to empathise. To them, that’s their way of life and remember, their brain tells them to be that way and it’s no better than the way we behave. Next time you see a child cry and kick off in the supermarket, think to yourself, “they may have a problem, they might not be naughty child.” It’s making these small changes that make the big changes and the big changes make the world go round smoother.
To help, the character JJ from Skins Generation 2 was rumoured to have Aspergers Syndrome due to the way he behaved and got panicky and nervous quickly. The director Tim Burton is also diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and through his love of Edgar Allan Poe, found an outlet. Changing Tatum suffers with ADHD and Justin Timberlake suffers with both ADHD and OCD.
So whereas people may look okay and well, that doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering. Whether that’s because of personal issues, a mental illness, physical illness or mental disability, we should all learn to be a little careful with our words in this day and age.