Why is a mental health charity campaigning on physical health? Isn’t that all sorted out by GPs? These are some of the questions I’ve been asked while campaigning on physical health. I’m an Activism Officer at Rethink Mental Illness and I’ve been looking at why people with severe mental illness usually have poorer physical health than the rest of the population – yes there’s lots of stats to prove that!
One of the problems we’ve seen is that symptoms are not always taken seriously by healthcare staff. So someone goes to the doctor and tells them what’s physically wrong and the doctor assumes that it must be caused by their mental illness.
I know one woman who was told for months that her intense abdominal pain was all in her head. It turned out she had gall stones and a diseased gall bladder!
I’d be interested to hear if this happens in Leeds. Have you had staff tell you that your physical symptoms were down to your mental illness – and were they right or wrong?
Many people do get psychosomatic symptoms, such as tummy ache from anxiety and it must be very hard for doctors to tell the difference. But then people with mental illness are just as likely to get appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome or chrons disease as anyone else. So it’s not a clear cut issue. What’s your experience of this?