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  • Emma Levinson

The Asthma Analogy

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

People often compare mental health to a broken leg.  However really it could not be more different.  Breaking a leg can be pinpointed to a specific event.  People will have fun signing your cast. And then you will recover and you will be up and running once it has healed probably after a few sessions of physiotherapy.  But then it will be back to normal as if it never happened.

Mental health issues cannot be further from this.

Many scenarios it can come from nowhere.  It creeps up on you.  Others it comes from a certain point of trauma or particular trigger.  Though some recover in many of cases you do not and, it has to become something you learn to live with.

The other day I was out with my personal trainer, and as always we discuss the meaning of life and everything that comes with it.  A reoccurring topic is of course the state my mental health!  He’s very good at talking pragmatically through things going on in my head and by the end the session my frame of thinking has changed – he somehow can be my 2nd therapist!!!

He came out with a really good way of explaining mental illness to people who can’t understand it, and why it can prevent you from doing certain things - it is very like asthma.

Asthma is:

  • Something you live with

  • People take medication for it and no questions are asked.  Nothing like “how long will you be taking it for”, “why do you need it”, “will you be taking it for the rest of your life?” – the medication is just accepted as a way of life.

  • Certain things can trigger it, so if you cant go to a bonfire, or do a run, it is just accepted as a trigger so of course you would avoid it.

  • People accept something can trigger it at any time and place.

  • People understand you need to be wary in certain situations.

  • People know more or less how to deal with it.  They take you out of the situation, give you your medication and make you think about your breathing

Mental health is exactly the same as all of the above.  Except people tend to run from it and question why you can't do things, keep declining invitations or avoid certain triggering situations.  You have to live with it.  You have to often take medication (sometimes for the rest of your life) but this often is questioned – but as with asthma it can be the defining point between life or death.

If someone has asthma you would not dream of saying things like “its all in your head”, “come on just breath and get on with it and it will get better”, “you should get off that medication and just breath”.

Like asthma mental health issues are an illness you cannot see.  It is there and you need to fight it constantly and avoid certain situations. It is not something you need to be scared to talking about or seeing someone struggling.  Mental health issues are normal, common and it needs to be acknowledged that like asthma it is not just something you can ‘get over’. 

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