Mental illnesses are some of the least understood conditions in society, even though the World Health Organisation now rates mental illness as the most debilitating of all conditions, ahead of heart disease and cancer, and estimates the economic and social cost of mental illness, in England alone, as being in excess of £80 billion annually.
Mental health problems can take many forms. Illnesses like schizophrenia and related conditions can severely interfere with an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks and activities; the person may become confused and withdrawn, perhaps hearing and seeing things that other people cannot.
Other people experience mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, in which moods can vary from hyperactive manic episodes to periods of great depression, between intense creativity and despair.
Chestnut Nursery is somewhere I can be myself & not worry about what people think, it’s nice not to be judged”
There has been a great increase recently in cases of depression. This sometimes chronic illness can profoundly lower a person’s mood, leaving them unmotivated and exhausted. Depression is often linked to anxiety, which is a constant and unrealistic worry. Anxiety may lead to panic attacks, which are unexpected bouts of intense terror. Other illnesses result in obsessions or phobias, which can be unbearable or paralysing.
Frequently, experiencing a mental illness results in a complete breakdown of the person’s personality and in their work, home and family life. People describe ‘looking into a black hole’. There seems no way out and no hope, no reason to continue struggling.
Many people experience mental illness following traumatic stress; this can be as a result of war, displacement, assault or violation, but can also follow bereavement, loss, accidents. There are very strong links between mental health problems and homelessness, and there are also a very large number of people in prison with mental health problems
Many of the mentally ill become unemployed, lonely, isolated and without any sense of meaning or purpose in their lives. Some cannot function normally, losing the ability to concentrate, to focus, to make decisions or actions, to take any responsibility for themselves, or to perform any of the regular everyday actions of daily life. They often lack self-esteem, dignity or any reason for living. There can also be a close link between mental illness and substance misuse, most commonly alcohol. One can lead to the other, and result in a spiral of poverty, homelessness and despair.
“Chestnut saved my life”
When the charity SWOP was set up in 1989, figures showed that one in fourteen males and one in seven females in the UK would experience a mental illness during the course of their lives. In 2009, studies show that one in four people will have a mental health problem in any year. Some surveys say the figure is one in three.
Mental illness can very often be triggered by stress and pressure, the chief characteristics of the modern world. The sense of competitiveness, the need to ‘succeed’, the emphasis on the individual rather than the community, all contribute to an inability to cope, which is why we believe there should be a project like Chestnut Nursery in every area.