Mental Health Problems – Depression, Anxiety and OCD
The issue of mental health is one that carries a lot of stigma. In a recent Scottish Executive survey, 41 percent of the population said that they would not want anyone to know if they developed a mental health problem, yet one in four people will experience a mental health disorder at some point in life.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
According to mentla health organisation See Me Scotland, the most common mental health problems include depression, panic attacks, severe stress and anxiety disorders. Gemma Andrews, a 28-year-old social work student, knows only too well how a mental health disorder can affect an individual. Andrews was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) two-and-a-half years ago.
“Everyone who has OCD has safety behaviours that they have to follow,” she says. “By carrying out the safety behaviours, I convinced myself that I’d stopped bad things from happening. If something bad happened and I hadn’t carried out my safety behaviours I would convince myself that it was my fault. At its worst, thoughts would flash into my head and I would panic and freak out. I lost a lot of friends who couldn’t handle my constant anxiety, and I felt really anxious and depressed.”
According to Overcoming Anxiety factsheets, OCD is closely associated with other mental health conditions such as body dysmorphic disorder, anxiety and depression. One in 50 people suffer from it and those affected by OCD can find it almost impossible to lead a normal life.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Andrews went to see her doctor to get help with the condition and he referred her to a clinical psychologist. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common methods of treatment for mental health disorders.
“I was referred for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which aims to change your thought patterns, and I found this really helpful. I also joined a support group, OCD-UK, and spoke to other sufferers on the forums. When I heard what they had been through, it helped to give me perspective on things.”
FEAT and Opportunities for Mental Health Disorder Sufferers
Research carried out by Rethink, the leading national mental health membership charity, shows that less than 40 percent of employers would consider hiring someone with a mental health problem.
In Fife, a group called Fife Employment Access Trust (FEAT) was set up in 1994 to tackle the lack of employment opportunities available for people with mental health problems. Over the past 16 years, FEAT has supported people as they sought to find and sustain work, and the group recently went online with a website, as the organization tries to extend their reach, helping even more people in the community.
“I think everyone in their lives at some point or other has a challenge or a mental health issue that they face and it’s important that there’s no stigma attached to it,” says Labour MSP Lindsay Roy. “FEAT has made a tremendous contribution to remove the stigma and to help people back to work and back to a more normal lifestyle.”
Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time, and with groups like FEAT working to help people with these disorders, there is hope that the related stigma can be greatly reduced. “The only way to raise awareness is by people coming forward and talking about their experiences,” says 32-year-old charity worker Sarah McNeil. “It’s the only way for them to get the support they need.”