I watched the Ruby Wax documentary #MadConfessions this morning. I watched it on 4 OD. It will be available on 4 OD until about 23 August if you haven’t watched it and want to. It is part of the Channel 4 #4GoesMad Season of programmes about Mental Illness.
It’s the only programme in this season I have watched, but I would like to watch some more. The aim, of this season of programmes, as I understand it, is to try to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and to try to encourage more people to speak openly about Mental Health.
After seeing lots of tweets last night about the Ruby Wax film I decided I would have to watch today.
I haven’t really written anything on this blog about my mental health issues apart from my struggles to keep control of things and manage the competing priorities in my life. I probably will talk about some of this stuff at some point, but all you need to know for now is that I do have depression and anxiety. It was diagnosed about 3 years ago, although I probably had it for longer without knowing because I didn’t want to discuss my feelings with anyone else. This is more information than I have ever shared with any of you whom I know in real life (except for my immediate family) so that’s the start of me talking about it.
Anyway, back to the Ruby Wax programme, I think its great that Channel 4, with the help of celebrities such as Ruby Wax want to break the stigma of mental illness, but I really felt that the programme didn’t really address the realities for many people. I know you can’t address it all in a 50 minute documentary. After all, we are all different. But the fact that Ruby was treated at one of ‘The Priory’ hospitals is a million miles away from where most of us are able to go with depression. The kinds of treatments and therapies she would have had access to there are beyond the experience of most people, who might have to wait months on an NHS waiting list for a bit of CBT, which then only focuses on one or two issues at a time.
The programme went on to engage with 3 successful business people who have Mental Health issues. Again, this is a great idea, it demonstrates that we are all vulnerable to depression, OCD, Anxiety, Breakdowns etc. and shows that many of the people we know and work with on a daily basis may be experiencing health issues that they feel unable to discuss and be open about. But I did feel that again it was a bit unrealistic, certainly from my own experience.
The programme explored the fact that many people do work and find ways of coping with their mental illness whilst continuing to work, but for many people this is difficult. My own experience is that it was totally impossible to work at the time I was diagnosed. The only thing I could do was to get my children to school and to try to ensure that their lives were not disrupted too much by my illness. Although I have moved on a long way from then and am now working again. I have a part-time, flexible job, but there are still sometimes where I reach a total block and am unable to function beyond the most basic tasks. I am gradually beginning to find ways of identifying when I get to this stage and trying to find ways of to deal with it to stop it getting to the point where I can’t work, but 3 years on, I still haven’t got there.
I’m also where I am because of the job I have and the field i work in, If I had the type of career where I had to be in an office every day working with others who do not recognise the values of disability, mental health and flexibility then I don’t think I would be working at all.
I don’t mean to undermine the documentary or any of the people who took part in its filming. I really admire them for being able to stand up and tell their colleagues about their issues, but I would like these programmes to go further and explore many of the issues that are more of a reality for many people. Indeed, I think that the Government and Society needs to recognise that many people are able to work and contribute, but not in a traditional sense of going to an office 9 – 5 every day on a consistent basis. Or at least they may not be able to do this all the time.
Of course the other advantage of talking about Mental illness is that many people may be able to recognise that they are unwell and seek help before it reaches crisis point, which may mean that they are able to continue to work. It may also help people to understand how completely real mental illness is and that it isn’t just a matter of ‘pulling yourself together’.
So, did you watch the programme? Have you experienced mental illness? and what did you think?