Writing: A solution for mental health? #SocialStigmaStories

Author Lucy Nichol suffered with panic attacks due to health anxiety. After suffering from night terrors and nausea from the age of seven, Lucy didn’t even recognise what a mental illness was. She spoke to SOS about her mental health journey.

Cognitive behavioural therapy and medication helped Lucy in her recovery and her break came when she started working for the national charity, MIND. Her background in public relations created an interest in stigma and the media representation behind mental health.

In 2018, Lucy wrote a book which focuses on the different stereotypes placed on mentally ill people. Lucy suffers from health anxiety and strongly believes that understanding what your triggers are is key to learning more about your own mental health:

“The most important thing for me is to actually recognise and say the words “I am having a panic attack’. People do understand. Learning your personal triggers helps to rationalise why it happens.”

Lucy Nichol, author of “A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes: Naming and Shaming mental health stigmas”.

For Lucy, blogging and talking about her anxiety with her husband and family has helped her put her mental illness into perspective.

Lucy told SOS that writing has acted as a therapy and comments:

“Writing a memoir and reflecting on my mentality has helped put things into perspective. I use a lot of humour in my writing, as it helps me to laugh at my anxieties rather than to be frightened by them. Challenging my thoughts through blogging acts as therapy for me.”

Author, blogger and mental health campaigner Lucy Nichol.
Lucy wrote a book in 2018 about the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health | Photo credit: Lucy Nichol.

Lucy is a keen supporter of breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and feels that sharing stories helps to create a more diverse and authentic reflection of mental health.

She supports media engagement services in her job and consults with media teams in British soap drama storylines, such as Eastenders. She looks at character progression in scripts, looking at how accurate the storyline is in line with mental health stigma.

Lucy works with mental health charities to write scripts for television dramas | Photo credit: Lucy Nichol.

Lucy believes that the media researches sensitive topics better now, such as suicide and post traumatic stress disorder. She believes the television industry is becoming more open and proactive when dealing with mental health.

Despite this societal shift, Lucy believes that physical and mental health is not viewed equally, especially in the workplace. She believes ‘employers need to walk the walk instead of talking the talk’ and need to ‘support their employees in every aspect of what they do’ and says:

“The stigma spectrum has two sides: people who view mental health as ‘crazy people’ or people who say you should just ‘grow up and get over it’.
The spectrum shouldn’t be so polarised.

“We need to be more fluid and less restrictive on how we view these conditions and realise not to be afraid and to talk about mental health more.”

Lucy Nichol speaks out about the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health.

It is clear that the three campaigners in the #SocialStigmaStories series are very passionate in their belief that mental health is a systemic issue in modern day society.

It could be argued that these three local organisations present a voice of conscience within the realm of mental health.

By speaking to Lucy, Haaris and Alisdair, it is clear that there is a significant lack of time and resources in the mental health sector, an education system that doesn’t seem to fit with the current health problems of our society, a reluctance to face up to social determines and a stigma still attached to talking about your mental headspace in your own workplace.

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