Lots in the news this week about mental illness and legal trials…


You may have been hearing lots in the news this week about mental illness and criminal trials.

This coverage can be distressing and quite scary so we’ve gathered some information and personal testimonies to give a clear picture of what experiencing mental ill health can feel like in day to day reality.  

Its important to remember that people experiencing mental ill health are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. The sad fact is that they are more likely to be the victims of violence -thats violence by someone else or through self-harm.

Remember, insanity is not a mental health condition; its a medico-legal plea that might be considered as a factor in a case.

So what are we actually talking about when we hear the words ‘mental ill health’ ?

Here are some explanations of common experiences when someone’s mental health reaches a point of being extremely unwell.

  • Psychosis: Psychosis is best described as when the brain loses contact with reality. While it is different for everyone, some people have described this feeling as ‘dreaming while awake,’ while others simply call it spinning out or ‘going off the planet.’
  • Hallucinations: These are unusual or unexplained sensations that you may hear, or less commonly, see, touch, taste or smell. For example, lights and colours may appear brighter or noises louder than they are to others. The way you experience the world may feel very different from how it usually does, which can often lead to problems in communication and understanding. Your sense of time may change so it feels as though times is standing still or racing by. You may hear a voice or voices which are real to you but which other people can’t hear. They can sound like someone speaking or shouting, although they may start as whispers. The voices can talk to you or about you, you may even recognise them. They can be rude and abusive or, more rarely, positive and comforting. These experiences can be distressing and frightening.
  • Delusions:These are strongly held personal beliefs which are out of keeping with your background and your usual way of thinking. To you they will be very real but they seem odd or bizarre to others. They may make you think that you are being persecuted or singled out, that you are famous or that you have special powers and influence. These delusions can develop slowly over time or quickly in response to something happening or someone’s actions.
  • Disordered thoughts: This is a change in your pattern of thinking. Your thoughts may seem to stop or it may feel as if some has taken them away. You may believe your thoughts are being broadcast to others or that people know what you are thinking. This can be embarrassing and frightening. You may feel that people are talking about you or that the television, radio and sometimes books and magazines are referring directly to you or telling other people about you. You may also think that other people are putting thought into your head.

Experiencing one or two of these feelings does not necessarily mean you could have a diagnosis but if they sound familiar to you, we would advise that you get to your doctor. The sooner something is recognised, the sooner you can start to be supported.  People can and do recover from a period of mental ill health and go on to lead meaningful lives. Recovery from mental ill health is different to the concept of recovery from a physical health problem;  recovery is a process not an end goal and is different for everyone.

Shine is the national organisation dedicated to upholding the rights and addressing the needs of all those affected by mental ill health. Contact Shine’s information helpline on 1890 621 631.

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