Diversity of Mental Ilness

Category: Opinion Pieces Publsihed Online Published: Monday, 29 October 2018 Written by Richard J Bell

Diversity of Mental Illness


Mental illness affects people from all areas of society. With slogans such as, ‘Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, so why should you?’ used by major organisations in order to create awareness. I’ve had a mental health nurse who told me she loves her job, because of the diversity of people she gets to meet. People who suffer from a mental illness come from all sorts of cultural and social backgrounds. With one in every five suffering from a mental illness, it’s quite understandable that everyone, in a lifetime, you will meet someone with a mental health problem.

My first experience volunteering in a mental health organisation in was in 2007. During their awareness week, that year there slogan was, ‘Mental Illness doesn’t discriminate, so why should you?’ In this context the word means distinction between two things. The phrase represented the fact that mental illness doesn’t make a distinction, between the people that it affects, so why should you? Mental illness can affect anyone in a lifetime.

One school of thought is the genetic pre-disposition of the illness before you are born. Which means it’s already inside of you; it just needs a trigger to begin developing.

Turning back the clock to 2004, I asked my mental health nurse,

“Why do you like this job?”

To which she replied, “You get to meet people from all walks of life.”

I suppose actually working in the field of mental health she’d get to see the diversity in her daily work. Through the experience she’d have, it would naturally break down the stigma, that stereotypes people with a mental illness as lower forms of society.

Since becoming a mental health public speaker I’ve come across people asking me if ‘those affected with mental illness are from lower form of social-economic status.’ Sure I can see how that would occur, because of disability support pensions and that who cannot work because of their illness is too severe, they would be put into that category. But on the whole it would be wrong to assume everyone with the mental illness, as lower forms of society, when the statistic of one in every five.

Given time, and the right treatment, even people with treatment-resistant mental illnesses can still accomplish full-time work. Some people do not even need a pension, and can maintain a healthy lifestyle through taking one day off a fortnight too see doctors.

When I started on medication in 2004, I found work in the South Australian vineyards, three months later. Instead of working a 40 hours for winter pruning, I was taking one day off a week to see health professionals. Still working while the meds were being increased, I managed my doctor’s appointments with working in the vineyards, even thought I was hallucinating from the point I woke until I went to sleep four months before.

People affected with mental illness can come from diverse social and cultural backgrounds, when on the Tongan side of my family I have two generations of politicians behind me. It is amazing how diverse mental health can actually be.

Currently part of the Psycho-Social Behavioural Model is that it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain through a series of triggers that can cause the mental illness to form. It means that it already is in the person before they are born. You cannot pick the genetic pre-disposition, which will incur in one in every five people.

The diversity of mental health is spread out widely throughout society. It differs from each illness, to which age group it can get affected, though still in present day teaching it can occur in anyone, due to the genetic pre-disposition. At the end of the day, when one in every five people has a mental illness, you’ll almost certainly meet someone with a mental health problem in your life time, no matter what part of society you are from.

Richard Bell © 10th July 2013

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