Is it hard to hold down a relationship? Have you ever been kept in a padded room whilst staying in a psychiatric hospital? Do they always drug you to keep you quiet? Or have you ever faced stigma because of your mental health challenges?
These are just some of the questions put to a group of St Andrew’s peer support workers by members of the public, as part of a new film released by the Charity aimed at ending the stigma attached to complex and enduring mental health. The group all have lived experience of mental health challenges, and now work at the Charity using their own experiences of mental health distress to inspire hope and support others who are struggling.
The film was inspired by research commissioned by St Andrew’s, which found that whilst conditions such as depression and anxiety are talked about, and more accepted, there is still stigma attached to more complex conditions such as borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia. In a survey St Andrew’s conducted last year, 1 in 3 people associated psychiatric hospitals with an image of a padded room, fuelling fear of admissions, and people said they were just as nervous about knowing someone who has been sectioned (23%) as they are about someone who has been to prison (24%).
Throughout the course of the film we hear from the peer support workers who speak candidly about their past experiences, as they answer questions submitted by members of the public.
In response to a question about whether there is still stigma attached to mental health, Darren explains: “that stigma still comes from a lack of understanding in society.”
Roxy, his colleague, explains that whilst there is more awareness, “there is still a lot of ignorance.”
The group are all dismayed by one question which asks whether they have ever been kept in a padded room, whilst being treated in hospital for their mental health:
“No, that’s just stupid!” says Susan.
“I can’t believe that question,” says Roxy, while Estelle says “that makes me think of all the old school films and stuff that portray mental health hospitals like they’re not anymore… I wouldn’t be here today without the care and support I received from hospitals.”
Darren is equally shocked by the question, but explains that during a stay in hospital he was put in a de-escalation room, aimed at help to calm a person down during a period of mental health distress. He explains the room he was in contained a bean bag and a screwed down sofa.
“Looking back at it now, it was needed, I needed to be separated,” he says.
When asked a question about whether it’s hard to hold down a relationship, Kyle explains:
“I think one of the perceptions of mental ill health is that it will make relationships more difficult. But actually, relationships are hard for everybody, we are no different. Actually I would argue that having quite a lot of therapy and self-reflection makes me a better partner.”
At the end of the film the group all share their experiences in what the turning point was on their recovery journey.
For Susan she says she’d “had enough” and explained it was the “fight” and “courage” to get better that was her turning point, as well as educating herself more about her condition.
St Andrew’s Healthcare is a Charity, which provides specialist care for people with challenging mental health needs. As part of our Charitable activities we aim to educate and raise more awareness among the public about complex mental health so that people can live a life free from stigma and shame.
Mental Health: Your Questions Answered is out now. Watch the full film on YouTube, here.