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Keynote speaker: Naomi Bentley

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Naomi Bentley is an actor best known for her roles in ‘Miranda’, ‘Great Night Out’ and ‘White Van Man’. She delivered a keynote speech at today’s Student Mental Health conference, stressing the importance of speaking openly about mental illness since being diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder.

“This is the first time I’ve spoken out about my mental illness”, she told delegates. “I hope that it will encourage other people to do the same, and tackle the stigma which surrounds it”

Naomi told the story of the origins of her illness, and how the initial support she received was inadequate. Having lost all sensation down the left side of her body along with her ability to speak, Naomi was admitted to a stroke ward. The next day, however, she was told there was nothing physically wrong with her, and was sent home without any referral.

Since then, her diagnosis has allowed Naomi to receive more effective support through therapy and medication, but her mental illness still has a huge impact on her life and her work.

“When I’m not functioning, I fail to meet my most basic needs”, Naomi went onto share with delegates. “I can’t wash myself, I don’t get dressed, I don’t brush my teeth. It isn’t pretty. I have no interest in anything. I lose the capacity to love and be loved. I become reclusive and shut everybody out”.

As a TV actor, Naomi was particularly critical about the role that the media plays in stigmatisation of mental health issues. After being asked about the media representation of Britney Spears in 2007, she replied: “the message wasn’t ‘this person needs help’. It was ‘crazy Britney’. It was scaremongering, and fuelled misconceptions”

Above all, Naomi stressed the importance of speaking openly about mental illness – not just for her own benefit, but with the hope that others would feel able to do the same. “The thing which has really helped me is communication – validating it for myself, and continuing to talk about it”, she concluded, looking towards a future where mental illness is spoken about in the same way as physical illness.

"It's time to discuss the elephant in the room. It's time to talk".

 

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