What’s so funny about Mental Health and Understanding?

This week in New Zealand and 149 other countries around the world it is Mental Health Awareness Week. The  theme this year is : Depression: A Global Crisis 

For very many reasons it is tricky to talk about mental health because many people don’t know what is going on and even when they do getting help may not be as easy as it is for other medical conditions. One of those who understands that much better than most is Professor Kay Redfield Jamison.

Kay has personal experience of bi-polar disorder and is also a professor of Psychiatry which shows in her insights and writings on the various topics.

Her books include An Unquiet Mind and Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament both of which I have read. The paradox with mental health is that conditions may come and go and those people may be unaware of the cause even though they feel the symptoms on a sometimes daily basis.

The clip below from Kay Jamison disappeared so replaced with a similar one in 2015.

One of the advantages of growing a little older is becoming more self aware of how connected we are are to our own thoughts and motivations and also in just learning about what makes us tick.

Because New Zealand has a very strong sports culture we have an idea that high performance sports people need to get their “head in the game” to do well. In work and other daily life activities we sometimes go on auto pilot and are more subject to not having our heads in the game.

One of the difficulties is lack of understanding. As Ruby Wax says below being told to just perk up doesn’t really work. In N.Z of we are told to “harden up”. Hopefully the LikeMinds campaigns and the ones that featured John Kirwan have changed that for the better.

Some of us remember Ruby Wax from various English TV shows of the 90’s and later. Ruby developed a show called Losing It back in 2010 based on her experience of depression. Here is a very recent TED clip of Ruby Wax called “What’s so funny about mental illness?” 8:45 mins.

“Diseases of the body garner sympathy, says comedian Ruby Wax — except those of the brain. Why is that? With dazzling energy and humor, Wax, diagnosed a decade ago with clinical depression, urges us to put an end to the stigma of mental illness.”

Here is a New Zealand story from Michael Morissey and film maker Costa Botes.

In 1999, NZ writer Michael Morrissey was diagnosed with manic depression. He has suffered eight manic episodes since, and been briefly hospitalised three times. Despite this, Michael rejected traditional medication, believing it would inhibit his creativity. Instead he chose to try and control his condition – to “tame the tiger” through willpower.

The results have not been easy for his long suffering wife. Daytime Tiger is a feature length documentary that explores its subject with astonishing frankness.

Here is Michael in a clip from Daytime Tiger.

Mental Health Awareness week is a great initiative. We all need more understanding when dealing with matters of the mind; hopefully the Kay Redfield Jamison, Ruby Wax and Michael Morissey clips will prove insightful.

Or in the words of the Nick Lowe song “Whats so funny about Peace Love and Understanding” as sung by Elvis Costello.

Or this acoustic version by Nick Lowe himself off the Jools Holland show. “What’s so funny about Peace, Love (insert Mental Health) and Understanding?