How’s your mental health? It’s not something we often think about unless we have a problem, far less discuss with others (even our nearest and dearest), but with one in four adults, and one in ten children, dealing with a mental health issue each year, it’s a subject that should be far higher on the agenda than it is currently. Tellingly, when it comes to UK Google searches, mental health problems are high on the list, with a study of 61 million searches by PushDoctor.co.uk revealing that mental health issues dominate the list of ‘10 most searched for conditions’, with bipolar disorder ranking first, depression second and anxiety fourth. Worryingly, the above are considered ‘embarrassing’ topics, and in a further investigation by the site 40% of those surveyed admitted that they would generally do nothing to address or resolve symptoms once they appear.
That such common illnesses are so taboo and misunderstood is, as the Mental Health Foundation states, ‘on target to become one the greatest public health challenges of our time’. To help to face the challenge, the foundation are behind this Saturday’s World Mental Health Day , ‘a global annual celebration of mental health education, awareness and advocacy’. Each year the campaign centres on a particular aspect of mental ill health, and this year’s theme is dignity, to tackle the fact that ‘an ill-informed and damaging attitude among some people exists around mental health that can make it difficult for some to seek help’. Asking for help from either medical experts or those around us should not be a source of shame, and World Mental Health Day aims to confront stigma through the sharing of facts:
“Facts that help us understand patterns of mental health problems, their causes and solutions. Facts that help us break down barriers in seeking help and support. We have produced an updated Fundamental Facts package with the aim of distributing it to the widest audience possible.”
“At the heart of Fundamental Facts is a focus on prevention, because the best way to deal with a crisis is to prevent it from happening in the first place. For example, by providing the right information, guidance and support in childhood and adolescence, the chances of developing mental health problems can be reduced for millions of people over a lifetime."
"This focus on prevention is in part about what we can all do to safeguard our wellbeing, but is also about tackling the social and economic inequalities that can lead to a higher prevalence of mental health problems.”
The creation of a new dedicated Minister for Mental Health in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet is a positive step forward, no matter what you think of his politics, and a focus on grassroots education could well transform the perception and treatment of mental health from here forward, if young people are effectively involved and engaged in learning about and openly discussing mental health issues.
Empowering young people is a priority for mental health charity Mind , and to mark World Mental Health Day on Saturday the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will meet young people who’ve battled with and overcome their own mental health problems and now volunteer at Mind in Harrow, or champion anti-stigma campaign Time to Change . Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, emphasised that such high profile promotion of the cause was invaluable:
“Their support will shine a spotlight on mental health and we hope it will spark conversations in households across the country, amplifying the vital message that it’s time to talk about mental health. We hope it will encourage people to think about the little things we can all do to make a difference to anyone experiencing a mental health problem.”
“Together we’ll celebrate both the personal achievements of young people who battle mental health problems every day, and the success of local projects that work to help young people through difficult times.”
“We hope it will inspire a new generation of young people to not be afraid or ashamed to talk about mental health problems.”
To further the cause, share the Mental Health Foundation’s Fundamental Facts with family, friends and colleagues via any means possible, and check out Mind’s website to learn more about mental health and what you can do to improve care and awareness for sufferers.