Mental Health – It’s all in the name


We changed from Spaz to Mental – i.e., I’m going to be doing a sponsored sky dive – “Are you mental?!” or the guy who gets drunk on holiday and leaps from his balcony into the swimming pool – “He’s proper mental” –  or the woman who is off work with depression “ She’s mental..” Is there any wonder why there is still a stigma associated with mental health problems? The word ‘mental’ really doesn’t help, does it?

In my opinion it should be changed to Cerebral Health problems. This indicates that the person with the condition is no less intelligent than you or I, he/she is not a nutter/fruit loop/ one sandwich short of a picnic/not all the chairs are under the table etc, etc, but simply that their brain is poorly.

Stick a plaster cast on a broken arm and it is easily recognised that under there lies a broken bone. Mental health problems are not as easily understood. The title covers a multitude of conditions; Bipolar, Unipolar, Manic Depressive, schizophrenia, mild depression, stress, postnatal depression, anorexia, OCD and anxiety to mention a few. It can be debilitating and often life changing for the sufferer and their family.

Mental health problems are very common. Thinking of the many people I know who have mental health problems their symptoms are so different to each other; some have acute anxiety, others have more complex problems and have attempted or thought about suicide. But the one thing they do have in common is that if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know, it is a silent illness. Freddy Flintoff and Vinny Jones both have a mental health problem, which goes to show, it can affect anyone of us at some point in our lives regardless of genre, age, wealth or status.

It is not a condition most people feel comfortable in admitting to having. We do like to label people who are different– Fat Barry from East Enders (who incidentally is in Panto at the Gordon Craig – tickets on sale now!) Ginge – he with the ginger hair, you get the idea. Most of the people with mental health problems will get in first with the nick-name to make light of their condition but it’s really not funny at all.

Many people are helped by receiving the appropriate treatment: counselling, medication, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. In some cases just realising that they have a problem and can actually admit to it and talk about it can be a huge help. The light at the end of the tunnel can seem very dim and a hard battle to work towards.

Though out my years as a Fitness Professional I have seen first-hand how physical activity can also help people who have mental health problems.

Take Mr A. 22 years old, suffering from manic depression and had been suicidal. On his first appointment with me was extremely nervous, he looked at the floor for most of the consultation avoiding eye contact, it had taken so much courage for him to walk into the Leisure Centre as a GP Referral but I’m so glad he did. He cautiously started attending the centre regularly and I saw his confidence building slowly over the weeks. The change in him has been fantastic! He now chats with me, pops into the office to say hi and is a completely different person. I asked him what he thinks has helped him to feel better He says;

“It’s partly due to the exercise, I always feel better when I’ve had a workout but it’s also due to the fact that I have somewhere to go and I look forward to seeing the other people in the gym. I’ve also lost weight and the bloke in the mirror ain’t too shabby now!”

Reasons to be active

What exercise should you do?

There are times in our lives when we can all need a boost, life is very full-on, work commitments, family problems, money worries all can leave us feeling depressed and stressed. If I have a problem I turn into Forest Gump – run Forest, run! Just remember to turn around; it can be a long way back (as I have found out!)

Many people use cigarettes and alcohol as a prop, if you feel that you would like help with kicking the habit there are many organisations who can help you;

Change 4 Life, Alcoholics Anonymous,  Alcohol Concern, Time to Change (mental health)

Take that step and make an appointment to speak to your GP or pop into your local MIND centre, – don’t suffer alone, there are people there to help you.

Cerebral Health Problems – a proper name for a poorly brain.

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