As an activist and campaigner I fight everyday to end stigma against the mentally ill and do this as a person who has been stigmatised since being a child – for my disability due to neurological damage from trauma and my genetic neurodiversity.
When there are mass shootings, murders and acts of terrorism the common labels are thrown about. Now I can not stop people from using words which stigmatise the mentally ill in everyday life, as this would be impossible, the words which come out are often misguided or just common place. However this does not mean they do not have an affect on me, and our community. In challenging these reactions and the usual rhetoric we must first admit that there is an issue, that words are not just words – they have impact and consequences. We must look at labelling, stereotyping, cognitive separating, emotional reactions, status loss, and discrimination. As we must do with all the diversity in the world.
As someone who is married to a Muslim, my husband and I often sit there and see which one of us will get the blame when a news report states a mass murder or a shooting/stabbing/beheading, more often than not, both of us do. A mentally ill, Islamic terrorist is normally the go to. However if the individual is white – then no religion or political persuasion is highlighted, but mental illness as a label and cause remains. None of these factors are relevant in the end, as the criminal was a murderer – a killer of humanity at its essence. Hate has no religion, disability, sexuality, gender, race – hate is hate.
However I am speaking as a mentally ill person so this is my voice and focus.
Over a third of the public think people with a mental health problem are likely to be violent – in fact people with severe mental illnesses are more likely to be victims, rather than perpetrators, of violent crime
The majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems.
People with mental health problems are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others: 90 per cent of people who die through suicide in the UK are experiencing mental distress.
In 2009, the total population in England and Wales was just over 43 million. It is estimated that about one in six of the adult population will have a significant mental health problem at any one time (more than 7 million people). Given this number and the 50–70 cases of homicide a year involving people known to have a mental health problem at the time of the murder, clearly the statistics data do not support the sensationalised media coverage about the danger that people with mental health problems present to the community.
According to the British Crime Survey, almost half (47 per cent) of the victims of violent crimes believed that their offender was under the influence of alcohol and about 17 per cent believed that the offender was under the influence of drugs. Another survey suggested that about 30 per cent of victims believed that the offender attacked them because they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In contrast, only 1 per centof victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness.
Contrary to popular belief, the incidence of homicide committed by people diagnosed with mental health problems has stayed at a fairly constant level since the 1990s
Substance abuse appears to play a role: The prevalence of violence is higher among people who have symptoms of substance abuse (including discharged psychiatric patients and non-patients).
Reporting stories featuring violence and mental health problems
stick to the facts – don’t speculate about someone’s mental health being a factor unless the facts are clear
consider including contextualising facts about how very few people with mental health problems are violent
I was tagged in a stigmatising post today which read:
“Happiness will never come to those who don’t appreciate what they have.”
And then they qualified this with:
“Did you know that the more we keep complaining about the things we don’t have, the more God keeps sending us worries to complain about..”
This is NOT helpful on so many levels, and I shall tell you why:
Firstly, happiness is not a reward it is a state of mind which can be affected by so many things, let’s say someone thinks someone else’s life is amazing but thinks that person is ungrateful because they are depressed, how does the person casting judgement know how the other suffers?
Do not judge people as you have not walked in their shoes.
Secondly, what if you have no stability, love, family or what if you are alone due to being on the outside of society with no rights due to your disability / ethnicity / gender / religion / sexual orientation.
Or due to being rejected by your community, friends and family? What if you have no food, water or shelter? Are you then ungrateful because you are depressed / unhappy with “what you have been given”?
Does God (who is considered all knowing, all loving and all powerful) then decide – that YOU are unhappy with what has been given to you to deal with in life and then decide to add more to your burdens? And this also suggests that you only have the unhappiness you have – because you were ungrateful. Not because life is cruel and unfair, but because YOU asked for it.
Lastly, this kind of rhetoric is so damaging, it shames people, it makes the most vulnerable people on this planet feel further isolated and judged for their misfortune or illness. It makes people with mental illness who are also believers of God think they are responsible for something they do not control, making them feel less able to discuss their issues with their community.
I am a Deist which means I believe in God, but I do not believe in God as a man sitting in judgement of us all, intervening on a whim to help people in their day to day lives but leaves out famine, poverty, war, child abuse, rape, natural disasters etc.
I believe in God as a word to describe our existence and the universes existence. As a Deist I rely on rational thought and logic, not on dogmatic beliefs. However this does not mean I judge those who do, my husband is Muslim and I was raised French Catholic, but I do wish to discuss the harm and mixed messages which arise within religion and spirituality with regards to mental illness. This is all I am doing here.
So all I ask is that next time, people think about what they are writing and posting out to the world on social media, think of those you judge with your post or those you may isolate.
Offer empathy and love, as this is the only thing which brings us all together.
This morning in a suicidal state of flashbacks and being locked in by reliving trauma, my eyes glanced over Twitter and saw that Stephen Fry was trending, so out of concern – immediately clicked the hashtag to see what was going on. Having admired Stephen Fry for so long, he has been someone I have followed and supported, he has championed open dialogue on mental illness, made me laugh, inspired me to take direct action and speak out about my own mental illnesses and trauma, as well as me wanting him to be my Father from a young age; as I saw him as a empathetic and caring man, which believe me; my Father was not.
I was a victim of child sexual abuse from the age of four to six, by a family member, I was raped violently at the age of 15 by a boy at my school, this resulted in me having internal surgery and being admitted to a psychiatric ward, in the psychiatric ward I was sexually assaulted twice by two different male patients.
This is what Stephen Fry said:
“It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place – you get some of my sympathy – but your self-pity gets none of my sympathy.”
“Self-pity is the ugliest emotion in humanity,” he said. “Get rid of it, because no one’s going to like you if you feel sorry for yourself. The irony is, we’ll feel sorry for you if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Grow up.”
The context to this was on censorship and “safe places” on the internet as well as Trigger Warnings.
Here is the full interview:
Regardless of the context the words he used are unacceptable, the stigma he has further created is appalling and the silencing of victims who survived is unforgivable.
Freedom of speech and expression is something very close to my heart as a visual artist and writer, its importance is vital for knowledge, our evolving society and so that everyone can be heard. However it is not as simple as you being able to say whatever comes into your head and then being able to defend your remarks with the excuse of “freedom of speech”, it is far more complicated than this if we wish to use our enlightenment to progress as a better global community.
Now I know a lot about “safe places” and “trigger warnings” as a survivor – who speaks out and has a large following across platforms. With a great number of followers who are in recovery from sexual abuse, sexual violence and rape I am very aware of the dangers we face by being triggered. You see we suffer from PTSD or even C-PTSD (which I have) which means we are not 100% in control of our minds and behaviours, so when we hear or see triggers it could be enough to push us over the edge or cause ourselves harm. My latest art, poetry and writing is about my experiences as a victim who survived, I do not feel any censorship over my work just because I have added a helpful safety warning about possible triggers, giving my followers the choice.
We have little choice anywhere in life as survivors, our minds are a continuous reel of pain and shame; rape and pedophile jokes are everywhere, people use the word rape in trivialising ways to describe normal day to day occurrences, such as “my Facebook was raped”; we see depictions of rape and incest being glamorized in film and on TV, we hear about it in the news everyday…
So when we wish to speak out about our trauma or read about someone else’s we should be able to use these helpful reminders and warnings without being persecuted further.
Being judged as self pitying children who need to grow up is exactly what we fear most when sharing our stories of survival.
I was a child when my abuse started – a four year old girl, this four year old girl is still alive inside me, she is still scared and feels so much shame, Stephen Fry told my little girl to “grow up”, he told all the children who are still being abused right now – to “grow up”. Something they do without choice far too early.
People are now worried for Stephen Fry as he is a Bipolar sufferer, people defending him and excusing his behaviour all because he is mentally ill, however – who is rushing to defend us? Most of us are not privileged to have such amazing private care as Stephen Fry does for his mental health, some of us are not fortunate enough to have loving families and friends who will take care of us, a lot of us are alone in this, today we feel even more isolated.
Being someone who suffers from a long list of severe mental illnesses I can assure you our mental health is no excuse for holding such stigmatising opinions. In trying to be “funny” Stephen Fry used his position and platform in the public eye to ridicule victims. With this he has exposed how rape culture is alive and kicking on this planet, how victim blaming is easier for people than empathy and kindness. That your right to offend and hurt others is more important to you than the safety of us. Is it really that awful that we add a trigger warning, does this upset you more than we the victims are traumatized.
So upon reading Stephen Fry’s comments on how we should “grow up”, I have been triggered and it is my freedom of speech to say so!
Experiencing a relapse in my recovery recently, this is raw for me right now. My life is so hard due to my C-PTSD, I can’t go out alone and have not done so for 9 years, I have physical pain where I was violated, flashbacks, night terrors and so many more things which I don’t care to get into right now.
Now comments and attitudes which reveal the rape culture we live in – full of victim blaming and silencing, as people defend Stephen Fry (on social media and in the general media) is clogging up our screens, pushing us further underground but fear not as his “rights” (Stephen Fry’s) to take our lives into his hands is preserved, but our right to safe places isn’t, for fear of upsetting people?
Today has been made even harder by this, it will enter into the voices we hear daily in our minds, which muzzle us and tell us we are nothing but a burden.
Stephen Fry is the president of Mind the mental health charity here in the UK.
Here is a link to Mind’s statement and a statement of apology from Stephen Fry
I have been in the mental health system since I was 12 and I have had many issues with malpractice, abusive care, neglect and unprofessional dangerous physicians treat me.
I have been told a few times and only just recently there is nothing they can do for me anymore, I am too severe and complex?
I have not been out alone for over 9 years and am housebound most days, I have no earning possibilities (however I am an artist and I run a non-profit with the help of others – this keeps me having a purpose) I have no family and my husband is left caring for me and is on minimum wage, I have no benefits as I can’t use the phone due to my illnesses (paranoia of being bugged) so can not get the forms, the forms hurt my brain so even if I had them I can’t fill them out without support.
I also have diabetes, chronic erythema nodosum and PCOS, which due to my mental illnesses I can not access any care for these. I can’t go to the surgery on my own when my husband is at work, it is closed by the time he returns, sometimes I wouldn’t be able to go at all I as I can’t always go outside, once a week is normally what I achieve but a lot of planning goes into this. And was told by my GP that I can not get home care as mental illness is not considered within this context. So I am left to die. No bloods being taken, no diabetic checks, no check ups on my chronic erythema nodosum which is getting worse, no care or rights for my PCOS so no care of rights for my fertility.
I am at home trying to survive hourly, I do not know how much longer we can live like this?
I am a very strong person, as I have had to be, but really I am not at all. Everyday I fight for mental health rights, so that I may one day be able to change this for me and others like me, which there are so many!!
I am asking your for help? I need you to help me get my voice heard so that I do not lose my battle, so that my husband does not have to carry this on his shoulders alone, so that all the people I have spoken to who are in my situation are heard.
We have no rights, neurotypical privilege is everywhere, we can’t survive without your help.
I have been struggling since I was an infant, I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, sexual violence as a teenager and sexual assault (which was in an adolescent unit) and both my parents have severe mental illness too, who I do not speak to due to their emotional and physical abuse, Mother with Bipolar 1 with mixed states and BPD and a Father with alcoholism and then alcohol induced psychosis, they have been in and out of psychiatric hospitals when I was a child. I was even left alone at 12 for many months whilst my mother was in a psychiatric ward, that was due to the fact she went private so social services were not alerted.
Please read this blog post and please let me know if I can share my story further? Maybe someone will help me? Maybe I will be able to live a better life or more managed life? Help me have the same rights as others!
Why is Severe Mental Illness left untreated in the NHS Mental Health Services:
Since receiving reliving trauma therapy for PTSD my mind has swollen and over-spilled with flashbacks and night-terrors. This intensive therapy has hurt like a thousand knives piercing my brain and heart, but with all intensive therapies it gets worse before there is any relief. I have yet to feel any deliverance.
The word ‘rape’ used to be an utterance I was unable to speak or think, the mere mention or thought of the word, would send me into a detached state, a complete shutdown and the escapist inside found a way of entering a safe place which was more like a dream world.
It took me 10 years to confront the word, not the act, just that word ‘RAPE’.
I had now accepted the word and what it meant for my continued existence, however I still can not truly accepted what has happened to me.
I still go over and over the incident, although the voice of society bullies my mind and the disbelievers ring in my ears. Telling me “but you fancied him? How could you not have wanted it?” and “But you are crazy, why would we believe you?”
Everything you could think of was used against me; my clothes, my mental health, home life and how well I knew my rapist were all used to justify what happened to me and I felt blamed, confused and as if I was deserving of it all.
Even after internal and external surgery caused by the rape, it was still said “she is so crazy she probably did the injuries to herself”.
The doctors, surgeons, police and mental health team all believed me and repeatedly told me it was not my fault and that the damage was clearly from forced intercourse and the bruises and marks were conclusive of restraint marks, but they were unable to undo centuries of victim blaming and misconceptions about rape, the world around me was singing from a different hymn sheet and I could not hear their support over the louder voice, saying “you were asking for it”.
The person who I needed to believe me was not my friends, family or even society, it was in fact me!
I only managed to do this, this year and strangely enough it was exactly 15 years since that day. Through reliving the rape in my therapy I was able to separate myself and all the other voices and see the truth. Although it was a relief to finally say to my 15 year old self “I believe you”, it felt as if it had just happened and felt more real than ever.
I am still struggling and receiving treatment. But as a survivor I decided to speak my truth, to be part of the change and help others like myself.
As an artist I have decided to raise awareness and help end the silence.
Here is one of my first pieces from this collection, which is accompanied by a poem.
Chained – By Charlotte Farhan
I was chained by my fear, after you held me down.
I was chained by your force, when my life was turned upside down.
I was chained by peers and the social pressure to conform, with not wanting to be different or to cause a storm.
I was chained by my clothing, which was used against me, as well as my self loathing.
I was chained by the trauma, which haunts me to this day and the wish for life to serve you your karma will never go away.
I was chained by you, by them, by me.
Chained by the idea that “I was asking for it”
I am still chained and wish to be free.
Thank you for reading.
Please share this post, be part of the change yourself.
At this present time I am working on an exhibition of art, sculptures and a book to accompany this project, to share my story, my suffering and my survival as well as highlighting rape culture in our society on a global scale.
Please help me in my campaign and like my Facebook page:
A week ago today I was half way through my first solo two day exhibition at NSH Arts in London, Mile End. I was feeling very excited and felt very blessed that the evening before had gone so well and how wonderfully I had been received. My exhibition was organised by Art Saves Lives an organisation which I am a resident artist for in London. The exhibition was my largest yet with 26 paintings.
The Venue – NSH Arts – London
“A classic Georgian House the east end of London, 439 Mile End Road has been refurbished to offer a versatile set of spaces intended for exhibition of 2D and 3D installations, music, theatre and study. The scale is defined by the domestic setting – but the possibilities are dramatic – including opera and indoor/outdoor exhibitions.”
Nick Hugh the director was so helpful and operates his venue and organisation with a relaxed professionalism which is calming for the artist and audience.
“Art Saves Lives is a not-for-profit arts organisation dedicated to providing inspirational and inclusive arts experiences to engage marginalised and underprivileged young artists in the UK. We offer our artists a plethora of multi-media visual arts, performing arts and film opportunities to unleash their artistic potential and transform their lives.”
Mr Dean Stalham – Company Director, organised my exhibition and promoted it. Dean was amazing and I am very grateful for his help and dedication.
Exhibition Poster – created by Art Saves Lives
Here is my exhibition for all those who could not attend and for those who are just finding out about my art. I hope you will feel as if you were there.
Breaking Through During Waking – An Exhibition by Charlotte Farhan
My vision for this exhibition was a collection of my best work which represented my journey so far. From childhood memories, life stories and events, with political and religious comments and parts of my inner self which begged to be exposed and exploded from my mind on to canvas. My work is always reflective and is meant to provoke discussion and to reflect positive energy from colour.
Rainbow Street (Amman) & Amman at Dusk – By Charlotte Farhan
Amman at Dusk – By Charlotte Farhan
Amman, is a city which reminds me of how strong I am and reminds me of the adventure and diversity which exists on our planet. I have faced many fears to visit this amazing city in Jordan where my husband is from. It is a spiritual home where I found an inner peace on my second visit in 2011.
Amman, Rainbow Street – By Charlotte Farhan
“Rainbow Street” is in the historic area of Jabal Amman, Jordan. This is the home of the artistic community located at the heart of Amman’s oldest neighbourhood. An inspirational and energetic vibe is felt here.
PTSD – By Charlotte Farhan
This is a reflective piece. It is painted in a naïve style. This represents the image my inner child would paint to explain the emotions attached to this condition. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe condition that may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events.
During my exhibition the fabulously talented pianist Fabio Tedde played his music. Fabio’s music set the scene for a relaxed evening. Pleasure for the ears and the eyes was our collaboration.
Here are some videos of Fabio Tedde for you to listen to
The Wonderful singer/songwriter Lánre also sang three amazing songs and the one she picked especially for my exhibition, was this song called “inspiration”
Lánre – Inspiration
Lánre is a beautiful women with true soul which runs deep and pleases the ears with a delightful ease and passion. A rising star who has a long and bright future ahead, watch this space because Lánre is coming!!
We also had inspiring guest speakers and were supported by Community Options with Ian bland, speaking about the organisation and who runs a creativity project for Art Saves Lives called Credo.
The Service User Network (S.U.N) is a group peer support service which helps people cope with personality disorder and emotional/behavioural difficulties.
It aims to help service users feel more supported, less excluded and more empowered. This is achieved through learning new coping strategies, which can help people have fewer crises, and be able to access other services more simply when needed.
S.U.N works alongside mainstream services
Inspiring and informative talks – Thank you
Exhibition Photos – By Mohammed Farhan & Edited By Charlotte Farhan
I hope you have enjoyed my exhibition
Thank you for visiting – your support is gratefully received
If you are interested in my work please visit my website
“Art can permeate the very deepest part of us, where no words exist.”
I have suffered from mental illness since I was a pre-teen and have struggled to cope with very strong emotions and at times have not coped and have had to be admitted to hospital. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder and Post Traumatic Stress disorder after I had a break down and was hospitalised for my own safety after a serious traumatic event when I was 15 years old. In hospital I was introduced to art therapy and found a release and a way to express my inner turmoil which was so hard for me to voice to the doctors and nurses. My art therapist worked very closely with me and was able to see my pain and understand the language I had developed to communicate through my art.
I have struggled with these illnesses on and off for my entire life that I can remember and am now 29 years old and still suffering! Now the illness affects me in different ways. Instead of the dramatic full throttle emotions of self destruction and not wanting to help myself, now I am unable to leave my home without someone else, I have severe anxiety and have developed an anxiety disorder which affects all aspects of my day-to-day life.
Art has saved me more than once and when I had my third breakdown in 2010 I decided to find salvation in my art and creativity. I had to face the reality that my mental illness had stopped me from being able to attend a full time university and now was affecting my ability to get a conventional job. I had to make a decision for my future. I could not let myself slip even further with this realisation. My doctors, support workers and psychiatrists had no answers except for drug treatment which I have refused since I stopped all my medication in 2004. So I sat on my bed feeling hopeless and defeated. Then as if the Universe was trying to tell me something I came across an on-line gallery asking for artists to submit, as they were starting up a new website. I had to submit six original pieces and an artists CV and the decision would be made within 48 hours.
The next day I decided to do it! I put everything I had into creating art which not only reflected me but also as a creative challenge to myself. I finished my six paintings and submitted them and waited for the longest 48 hours. Then finally I got an email confirming I had been accepted and that I was now an artist. I then thought about this title, this irony and how my life had led to this point. I then invested all my time in launching my career and creating a portfolio, CV and a social media presence. As well as this I took the decision to start my degree with the Open University and to do the subjects I had always wanted to do, now I am in my third year of my part time degree, a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Psychology.
Two and a half years after I submitted to the gallery I am doing well with my career and the future is certainly something which I know I can influence and I have some very positive days. I am now with 2 galleries, I have exhibited in a group show and have two exhibitions booked for this year. I have sold over 25 paintings and have over 19,000 likes on my Facebook page. Yes I still have very bad days! Yes I have lost lots of friends because they could not understand me or empathise! Yes I still have a long way to go! But I can also say I have a lot more ‘good days’! I have gained some new amazing friends because of my art and found my true friends in my immediate circle! And most of all, yes art saved my life!
“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humour and style and generosity and kindness.”
For more info on Borderline personality disorder please visit: