Chances are, more of your friends, neighbours and family members have experienced mental health concerns than you may think, but we need to start talking about it
Thanks to research and developments in science we are completely updating our knowledge about what mental health actually is. Statistics show that one in four people in the UK have been diagnosed with at least one kind of mental health issue in their lifetime. But think of how many people have suffered from issues, and have gone undiagnosed.
My theory is that everyone, absolutely everyone, has some kind of mental health issue at some point in their lives. Obviously some are much more serious than others, and last much longer than others; but everyone is somewhere on the spectrum.
From recently tackling my own issues with mental health, and therefore talking to friends (as I cannot keep anything to myself) I realised far more people were experiencing their own issues than I had originally thought. I was told that it was unusual to find people who suffered from a mental illnesses; that they were a tiny minority, and my school was just taking precautions because the likelihood of us knowing someone with these issues was small, while the chances of us having these problems ourselves were minute. Oh, how wrong they were! It is true that I had acquaintances who had been hospitalised due to issues, which my school year awkwardly and quietly discussed. But, it wasn’t until a conversation with a few friends after a party that I realised how common mental health problems are. How many close friends were dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety and stress. As I started talking about my therapy, more and more friends opened up to me about their own struggles.
I was naive in thinking that only ‘those’ type of people have mental health issues or go to therapy, and I was wrong in thinking ‘Oh, my problem is not bad enough to actually do anything about it’ or that I was alone. Now I know I’m not the only one with these thoughts. Mental health is all around us. Minor, ‘every-day’ mental health issues need to be spoken about more and looked at in a new light. Undeniably, very serious mental health illnesses such as suicidal depression or bipolar, need to be discussed more and people should be better educated on these disorders … However, it is the minor mental health issues that are so worryingly overlooked. This results in huge numbers of people having to live with them, suffering in silence, without ever knowing that they could get help to stop or at least significantly reduce their suffering with the right treatment and support.
The good news is that things are getting better. The UK Government has just put an additional £1 billion into the mental health department of the NHS, aimed at increasing access to better mental healthcare which desperately needs funding. The 2016 mental health report said that, ‘Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK. Its cost to the economy is estimated at £105 billion a year — roughly the cost of the entire NHS‘. Therefore, developments and funding to improve early intervention would not only save lives but actually save the country money. So far, suicide rates — the biggest killer for men under 45 — are decreasing for the 15-29 age group. There is arguably much to be hopeful for concerning the young generation who could be the first to see mental health taboos permanently pushed out.
Approximately the same number of people who use tablets in the UK have diagnosed mental health disorders. Yet which of these two are we more informed about? Educated on? Scared by? Mental health issues need to stop being a taboo given the number of people affected by them. If you are suffering from mental health problems know you are NOT alone. There are more people with the same issues than you may think. This is something to take comfort in, but also a fact for the NHS and more importantly for society to concentrate on and ask: why are these numbers so high?