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About illness, Feminism, Mental health

I’m not your “problem”

Time To Change is a UK organisation operating under the tagline “Let’s end mental health discrimination.”

Ok, cool. No issues with that. On February 6, they’re running an awareness-raising campaign called #TimeToTalk. Their angle is: the more we talk about it, the better.

Yes, I agree. But it’s not just the talking that matters. It’s how we talk about it.

Here’s the Time To Change website.


Here’s their Twitter:


And here’s the tweet that first got my attention:


NO. No, no, no, no, no, NO.

1. In every single piece of their media – website, print, social media – this organisation refer to mental health as a “problem.” They say they’re here to battle stigma. Well, perhaps they could start by not suggesting that people with mental health that differs from what is considered the norm have a “problem.”

2. Please do not thank Metro Mag (which is an absolutely revolting publication – have a look at their Life&Style section online if you dare) for printing a paid promotion that actually contributes to stigma. This is an advertisement, not a supporting article.

3. I also love the addendum at the bottom – “Turn the page for your regular life&style section.” In other words: Don’t worry! This is an advertisement, not part of your regular programming! You can get away from it, quick!

I’m really, really sick of mental health awareness-raising campaigns that reinforce the stigma they claim to fight. I see the same thing happening in New Zealand with those TV advertisements about how people “stuck with their friends through mental illness” – like they deserve a medal for doing this. If nothing else, they’re awkward and weird and make those of us who live with mental illness feel like burdens on our friends.

You want to actually help? Several of my friends have got together to run Round The Bays in Wellington (they are far braver than I), and are raising money for Casper, a suicide prevention and education organisation.

You can donate to The Wounded Gazelles and Casper via Givealittle. Please contribute if you can. I’ve talked about suicide in New Zealand before. Last year there was over 500 preventable deaths. This will make a difference. Donate now.


Rant over.


About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@_writehanded_) or read more of her writing at


8 thoughts on “I’m not your “problem”

  1. I have mental health problems and they really are problems for me. Big problems.

    I don’t have any issues with a publication using the word “problem” to describe mental illness, like how they might use “health problem” to describe a physical affliction.

    Being hypersensitive about how the media labels something is a recipe for being disappointed. Shrug and move on.

    Posted by Gorf | February 3, 2014, 11:53 pm
  2. Yeah maybe don’t tell me what I can and can’t be upset about. I get that everyone has a different experience, but yours isn’t mine and vice versa. If everyone “shrugs and moves on,” nothing would ever change.

    Posted by writehandedgirl | February 4, 2014, 12:10 am
  3. Just thinking about the difference here. Is it maybe that we see a lot of other diseases that are lumped together regularly aren’t as often reffered to as “problem”? Heart Diseaeses, Weight Disorders, and so on. Terminology that infers it can be cured, rather than terminology that infers a puzzle maybe?

    Just trying to see both sides here, they both have relevance.

    Personally, I don’t see my disease as much of a problem. I accept it as much I accept that I have asthma, allergies and high blood pressure. Like Sarah says, it’s different for all of us.

    Posted by Jeremy Riley (@jeremygroverboy) | February 4, 2014, 12:22 am
  4. Yep, whiny blog posts and Twitter campaigns aren’t going to change the world either.
    Speaking as someone has had Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder for 25 years and spent a lot of time on psych wards I’ve found the best way not to be defined by my illness is to not let it define me, it’s part of who I am but only one part.

    Posted by Gorf | February 4, 2014, 2:27 am
  5. I don’t think I’m whining, but thanks for your opinion.

    I’m not telling you how to feel about your illness. That’s up to you. I’m disagreeing with the language in some of the wider discourse.

    Blog posts and twitter campaigns might not change the world but neither does silence.

    Posted by writehandedgirl | February 4, 2014, 2:41 am
  6. Firstly, mental illness and variants are not treated the same as physical conditions. That’s kind of the point of the campaign… that there’s a stigma that needs to be addressed. Purely in terms of achieving their stated purpose, ‘problem’ is a bit of a daft choice of words.
    Secondly, publications *don’t* use “health problem” to describe physical conditions. They use less connotation-laden language… like, well, “condition”.
    Mostly, however, I’d say to you: being hypersensitive about how someone on the internet blogs their own opinions is a recipe for being disappointed. Shrug and move on.

    Posted by V (verbscape) | February 4, 2014, 7:08 am
  7. I know how you feel, there’s some really shitty mental health “help” campaigns out there that stink of self gratification. It makes me so mad to see people gaining money and attention off the back of a bullshit “I’m doing it for the poor mentally ill people” premise – it really makes me feel like nothing but a _thing_ for other people to use for their gain, regardless of the very human person they’re disregarding.

    Posted by Kye | March 13, 2014, 11:28 am


  1. Pingback: Reaching out – and reaching in « The Daily Blog - March 16, 2014

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