World Mental Health Day: ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’.

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’. I believe in order to achieve this we must shift from speaking about mental wellness to educating about mental illness.

I live with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is an anxiety disorder through which people get powerful, distressing intrusive thoughts that they do not want and often result in the person with it performing behaviours or rituals to either make their thoughts go away or prevent them from coming true. For example, I get persuaded into flicking on and off light switches, re-touching surfaces, re-writing and reading words and many more behaviours as my brain tells me that if I do not do these actions, I will become a serial killer. I understand how ridiculous this may sound to neurotypical people; I am aware that this is a completely illogical line of reasoning. However, due to the distressing nature of the thoughts and images I receive, my body goes into fight or flight response and I am not able to reason logically: my body joins forces with my OCD to convince me that there is a real threat in these stories. My OCD got so bad at one point that I convinced myself that if I did anything at all I would become a serial killer; this culminated in me not eating, sleeping, or drinking any water which is clearly incredibly dangerous.

To live with this disorder that makes you question your sense of self, what you have done in the past (sometimes my brain tells me I have committed crimes and forgotten) and have constant fight or flight responses is incredibly difficult and consequently lots of people with severe OCD have suicidal ideation. Because my OCD got so bad that I could not perform basic human functions like eating, drinking, and sleeping I felt socially isolated, like an alien from a different species. Social isolation is incredibly dangerous for people with mental illnesses and is named as a ‘risk factor for suicide’.[1] Most people with OCD feel socially isolated because their brain is constantly telling them incredibly distressing things so they cannot fully connect with the world around them; this is one of the reasons the stigma concerning OCD is so dangerous. People with OCD already fear speaking about their intrusive thoughts to others as they are scared that others will think their thoughts are true and judge them as people for their thoughts. The stigma surrounding OCD has built another barrier that sufferers must dismantle when telling others about their mental health struggles. Not only this but hearing your disorder be the butt of jokes is incredibly demoralising.   This Mental Health Awareness Day I propose that in attempting to ‘make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’ we must begin with education concerning mental illnesses as this will help to prevent feelings of isolation for vulnerable people.

[1] M.C. O’Rourke, R.T. Jamil and W. Siddiqui, ‘Suicide Screening and Prevention’, Europe PMC, 2022.

Olivia Surguy
Olivia Surguy

My name is Olivia Surguy and I am from Kent in the United Kingdom. I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and have been diagnosed since 14 (although I believe I have had it my whole life). I did not have a ‘normal’ experience as an adolescent because of this and I do not experience the world as a neurotypical person would. I have learnt about mental illness first-hand and am incredibly passionate about breaking stigmas surrounding mental health problems as a result. Due to my struggles with OCD which made me feel extremely isolated at times, I set up my instagram account (@liv.ingwithocd) to both create a community of others with OCD and educate those without it. My passion for spreading awareness about mental health afflictions then lead me to create a podcast where I talk to others about mental health difficulties in order to try to normalise speaking about them; I called it ‘Don’t Bottle That Sh*t’ as I wanted to curate a space on the internet where people do not feel they have to ‘bottle everything’ inside. I went to the University of Leeds and studied English Literature where I took a few modules focussing on how people with disabilities (mental and physical) are portrayed in both literature and film, through the lens of critical disability studies.

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