World Mental Health Day: Celebs share their experiences, and we bust some myths

Mental health myths busted with Emma Kenny

Thursday, May 17, 2018

There are plenty of misconceptions about mental health issues, and it's easy to feel unsure about the best way to talk about them.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked listeners and celebrities to share their experiences - watch the video above to hear presenter Anna Williamson talk about her anxiety, A Place In The Sun's Jasmine Harman open up about her mum's hoarding disorder, and musician Frank Turner talk about his mental health battle.

Below, TV psychologist Emma Kenny, who's appeared on This Morning and has a regular column in Closer magazine, answers some common questions about mental heath and shares advice on how to support someone you know if they're suffering.


Can changing your lifestyle improve mental health issues?

"Lifestyle changes undoubtedly have an impact. To some degree, diet, rest and exercise can improve your mood, however, will they resolve your mental health issue? Not entirely.

"You may need extra support, like talking therapies, medication or holistic alternative therapies such as acupuncture or reflexology."


Is suffering from a mental health issue a sign you’re less resilient?

"In research we know that certain mental health conditions, to some degree, are genetic.

"They can also be brought on by the way you’ve been brought up, any stresses in your life such as work worries or someone you love dying.

"The truth is, most of us will experience some kind of mental health condition at some point - nobody is immune. I often hear people say “I never thought it would happen to me, I thought I’d always be happy”.

"I think those that judge others for having mental health issues should be careful, because you don’t know when it might happen to you."

"The existing mental health problems I've had have been exacerbated by working in the music industry," says Frank Turner. Watch him in the video above


Can mental health sufferers choose to ‘snap out of it’?

"It is frustrating if you have someone you love in your life with a mental health issue, and you can’t see why they can’t just be happy, or get out of bed.

"But for the person who’s depressed, it’s impossible. It’s not a choice. They don’t need people being angry with them - they’ll already feel bad enough as it is.

"We think about mental health as being different from any other health issue because it’s felt on an emotional level. But the brain is just another organ in the body that can go wrong.

"It’s the neurotransmitters making you feel that way. We need to think about it in the same terms as physical health, and that’ll help the stigma go away."


How can someone be depressed if they have a really fantastic life?

"Happiness has nothing to do with what you have, it’s to do with how you feel.

"You can be the poorest person or the richest person and feel miserable and vice versa. What causes someone to be unhappy is when they see everything they have in front of them, they see all the people that love them, they see all the positive aspects of their life, but they still feel unhappy.

"It’s like looking at their life through glass and they feel incredibly guilty they can’t feel happy which exacerbates their feelings."

Having a mental health issue is not a sign of weakness, says Anna Williamson


Can you tell if someone has mental health issues by looking at them?

"The average person dealing with a mental health issue looks completely normal and functions.

"Like most alcoholics and drug users, and people with eating disorders, they don’t look like it - they’re functional. Part of the cycle of mental health is denying you have a problem. That reinforcement is negative because you don’t have to confront it.

"The worst kind of mental health issue is the one where you just carry on and never face up to it. There’s still a stigma and impatience towards people with mental health issues, but the truth is you can look completely ‘normal’ and still feel horrendous."


What does having OCD really mean? It’s not just about being tidy, is it?

"OCD is a spectrum. You could be a hoarder or someone who washes their hands obsessively, or you may have none of those symptoms but do ritualistic counting, or get intrusive thoughts.

"They’re horrifying for sufferers - they may think something like “I’m going to kill my child” all day. Imagine thinking that 24/7. They’re the least dangerous person and have no desire to act on the thoughts, but they can’t get it out of their head.

"Everyone is affected differently, but the media portrayal often focuses on the physical symptoms."

Presenter Jasmine Harman says the biggest misconception about hoarding is that simply tidying the house will solve it


How easy is it really to access help?

"People seeking talking therapies could be waiting for up to a year. There’s a misconception that you can ask for counselling and get it, but it’s not that easy.

"Only one in eight people are estimated to be currently receiving treatment and the NHS generally only offers cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is not the right kind of therapy for everyone.

"Instant support is available through places like Mind, Samaritans, or the Headspace app, and there are new types of treatment available privately for those who can afford it."


What’s the best way to help someone with a mental health issue?

"Try to be in their world. See things from their point of view but remain strategy-focused.

"Telling someone to just ‘go for a jog’ could be like telling them to predict the winning lottery numbers, so don’t overwhelm them - suggest to knock for them and go for a walk with them instead.

"The reason they can’t do things is because they feel dread, isolation, loneliness and anxiety every time they take a breath, and waking up in the mornings is one of the hardest parts of the day.

"If you want to be a loving, compassionate helper, think of what you could bring to their life to make a small change, and build things up with them. Don’t expect them to be able to do things on their own."


If you need support, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit the website. Advice and resources can also be found on the Mind and CALM websites.