From movie villains to mental health realities

One could argue that it is easier for someone to admit to having a serious and potentially life threatening tumour than to be suffering from a mental health illness, let’s say for example: schizophrenia.

Is it because of the movies we have seen when the villain is described as a schizophrenic, possessed stalker, with sadistic behavioural patterns?

Well, it certainly adds to an unfriendly picture with such conditions as “torturous maniacs stopping at nothing to reach their objective”.

Stereotypes and Stigma

As entertaining as it was the Joker in the film Batman: Dark Knight (2008) was consider by most a “supervillain”, who embodies themes of chaos, anarchy and obsession. Heath Ledger (who played the Joker) described the Joker as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.”

These interpretations of someone with mental illness like schizophrenia further emphasises the stereotype and the stigma around people with such serious illnesses.

Does admitting to suffering from a mental health issue almost feel like adopting a likeness to these “villains” which we all love to hate?

In a recent trip to the London Aquarium I was surprised to learn that Sharks are not these blood thirsty creatures that prey on surfers on beaches. Apparently Sharks don’t even enjoy the taste of human blood and merely attack when they feel under threat (Who knew).

The label attached to Sharks is to larger extent been attributed to their depiction in the iconic Steven Spielberg movie Jaws. (If you haven’t watched it, the movie begins with a shark attacking a couple swimming late at night, later on the Great White Shark goes on a killing spree; eating everything in its path!!! …..) I won’t spoil it for you but there is an epic ending; according to the Guardian newspaper it’s on the 100 movies to watch before you die.

The realities of mental health are very serious. The stigma surrounding mental health issues are such that individuals who may be suffering from these issues are not accessing the medical help and support that is so important for them to receive.

The trends in mental health illness are sadly increasing. The awareness campaigns are numerous and varied despite the downward trend there is some hope and that is that the trend for people seeking help and support is increasing.

This is goods news, as the impact of awareness campaigns in society in taking mental health more seriously can be seen, but there is still a long way to go.

How many people seek help and use services?

Treatment statistics

The 2014 APMS found that one adult in eight (12.1%) reported receiving mental health treatment, with 10.4% receiving medication and 3% receiving psychological therapy. The overlap within the statistics is due to 1.3% of those receiving treatment reporting receiving both medication and psychological therapy.

For those with common mental health problems, 36.2% reported receiving treatment. The proportion of people with a common mental health problem using mental health treatment has significantly increased. Around one person in four aged 16–74 with symptoms of a common mental health problem was receiving some kind of mental health treatment in 2000 (23.1%) and 2007 (24.4%). By 2014, this has increased to more than one in three (37.3%) (see Figure 4a).”

Source: Mental Health Foundation – “Fundamental Facts 2016” – a resource for everyone interested in good mental health and preventing mental health problems from developing.

More and more people are seeking help. In the recent study by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), the key is “prevention” and/or “early intervention”. The sooner the support or help is received the more likely the chances of a better or quicker recovery.

Early intervention is really important, as it can help prevent further escalation in mental health deterioration, so knowing where to go to seek further help and assistance is essential. I have listed below numerous organisations that help specifically with mental health.

We lose, if we don’t help people with mental health illness.

The reality is if “we” don’t help people with mental health problems, our economy will also be hugely affected.

Just take look at the impact below:

The UK

The 2013 Chief Medical Officer’s report estimated that the wider costs of mental health problems to the UK economy are £70–100 billion per year – 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP). However, estimating this figure is very complex and an earlier study carried out by Centre for Mental Health found that, taking into account reduced quality of life, the annual costs in England alone were £105.2 billion.


It is just staggering how much the UK economy is affected by mental health problems, although as stated above it’s a complex area, the cost of mental health problems is “£70-100 billion per year” is an astronomical figure.

The invisible illness has a very visible presence, apart from the financial affects, just think of the serious consequences on families and friends suffering from loved ones with mental health issues; which money cannot equate. So reaching out and helping is essential.

Support is not far!

If you feel you are suffering from any form of mental health issues do not let the erroneous perceptions surrounding mental health issues impede you from making yourself better; in the same way you would not hesitate to take a paracetamol if you had a head ache. (No brainer right)

Here are just some of the excellent organisations that help people with Mental Health problems:


Dementia on the rise, but help is at hand!

This is often an area where most have come in contact with but know very little about it. Dementia is now a major illness that affects 850,000 people in our society today is there help when things go wrong? According to the Alzheimer society.

“There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. This will soar to 2 million by 2051.

225,000 will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes.

1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia.

70 per cent of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems.

There are over 40,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK.

More than 25,000 people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the UK are affected.”


A person with dementia often experiences problems with loss of memory, cognition, confusion, depression affecting their normal daily lives.

These are people that may have difficulties in recalling events, which can often lead them in dangerous places or scenarios. Often concentration, planning or organising becomes an almost impossible task to do on their own. Feelings of disorientation and confusion often set in (even visual hallucinations or delusions); resulting in mood swings and in some cases violent behaviour.

Unfortunately, the condition of dementia is progressive and the symptoms will get worse over time. The symptoms may be distressing and challenging for the person and their relatives. In severe cases some affected by dementia or any other mental illness can be detained under section 2 or 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

There are many organisations that help people with these serious conditions, like Age UK, Alzheimer Society, SANE, Dementia Action Alliance etc… It is time we all supported these and many other organisation to raise the awareness of Mental Health illness in our society today.

We are working closely with many of those organisations that help people with dementia and other mental health issues. Our aim is to beat the stigma of such illnesses in order to reach out to so many suffering in silence.

Surprisingly solicitors can often play an important role helping those that have been “sectioned”, enabling individuals and families know of their “legal” rights and responsibilities, and help address the challenges that they would face in severe circumstance, especially in mental health wards or hospitals.

With these specially trained “Mental Health solicitors”, families can often get their voice heard quicker and avoid lengthy delays, or raise important concerns about the welfare of a loved one, often times assisting in challenging a CTO (Community Treatment Order).


Prison Transfer to Hospital

Only 1 in every 10 prisoners are not affected by mental health problems. These issues can be wide ranging and can include Learning Difficulty, Bi polar disorder, Personality Disorder, schizophrenia or drug induced psychosis.

It would seem that with cuts to prison budgets and prison law legal aid that this situation has been worsened. Help is not always at hand, medication might be unavailable or late, psychology is often rare and limited and some prisons do not even have access to a psychiatrist. For those with a Learning Difficulty adapted or 1:1 course do not always exist or are provided.

For many people detained in prison this is not always the correct place and hospital would be a more suitable environment. A transfer from the prison to hospital can occur. This transfer is done under Section 47 of the Mental Health Act. Often restrictions will apply to prisoners in regards to this.

For this transfer to happen the Secretary of State must be satisfied following receipt of two medical reports from two psychiatrists, that a prisoner is suffering from a mental disorder which makes it appropriate for him or her to be detained in hospital for treatment. This treatment must be available to the prisoner when they get to hospital.

Often the prison does not have resources to start this process and many Prison Officers however experienced at assisting those with Mental Health Problems cannot always identify those who need this help.

Transfer to prison however is not the easy option, it may mean that for those serving determinate sentence that you could stay in hospital than you would in prison. You would however be given the opportunity to address mental health issues you have.

For those serving life and IPP sentences this may offer a different route to release and more support on a release plan. For those subject to Life or IPP sentence when you are well and ready for release you can make an application to the First Tier Tribunal to seek recommendations that you remain in hospital for a Parole Board to take place there. You do not need to go back to prison for this. The Parole Board procedure then will take place about six months after this decision in Hospital. The benefit being that those who have treated you will give evidence and have input into your release plan.

Real benefits then can be support from a community mental health team, more appropriate accommodation and extensive leave including overnight leave, giving opportunity for resettlement and obtaining work.

Other benefits can include access to course such as the SOTP or adapted courses for those with mental health problems and learning difficulties. This can allow sentence plans or work directed by the MOJ to be completed allowing progression.

Mental Health Solicitors can now assist prisoners with who are struggling with these issues and who would like to be advised on or transfer to hospital. Where the gaps were following the cuts in Prison Law, Mental Health Law now can assist.