One in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year. Many mental health organisations, including Mind, have launched campaigns to increase awareness and acceptance of these illnesses, but are they working? And if not, why?
Photo: Morgue File.
For several years, mental health has been discussed as a taboo subject, with the effects of disorders such as depression being seen as less impactful than “visible” illnesses. These problems affect people of all races, ages and genders, and, in fact, 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time.
Every one of us knows someone with mental health problems, whether we are aware of it or not. But would we feel comfortable talking to them about it? Is the stigma attached to these illnesses changing?
The department of health publishes an annual survey investigating attitudes towards mental health. Some of their improving statistics include that the percentage of people saying they would feel uncomfortable talking to their employer about their mental health was 43% in 2011, compared to 50% in 2010. In addition, the percentage of people saying they would be comfortable talking to a friend or family member about their mental health, for example by telling them they had a mental health diagnosis and how it affects them, rose from 66% in 2009 to 70% in 2011.
The media, through mediums such as advertising, puts pressure on people to be happy with their bodies, happy in their jobs, to have lots of friends, a happy family and a romantic relationship. This pressure is present at all times; self-help books are always top sellers, and women especially are constantly being convinced to be happier with their bodies with each newly published diet and celebrity keep-fit DVD.
Statistics show that the UK has the highest rates of self-harm in the whole of Europe, with 400 people per 100,000 being effected. Suicide rates also show that British men are three times more likely to die as a result of suicide than women. With statistics such as these, why is mental health still whispered about?
Caila Carr, a local teacher, spoke to Concrete about her opinion on the issue: “If mental health is something we shouldn’t be afraid to face, why is it required as information for some training and job applications? In this tough climate, can anyone say that they wouldn’t use this information as a reason not to accept a possible candidate? Which means that those that should place their mental health issues down in that terrifying box, do not.
“This in turn means these candidates will not receive the support that they perhaps would have, and could act as a catalyst for the symptoms to worsen.”
With this in mind, organisations such as Time to Change are doing extremely important work in raising awareness in the UK and encouraging more people to openly discuss mental health illnesses.