With the statistic that one in four people in the UK will suffer from mental health problems at some point now becoming common knowledge, alongside the recent high profile tragedies of Robin Williams’ suicide and the Germanwings catastrophe, it’s a wonder that only Nick Clegg managed to highlight the issue on the live party leaders’ debate which took place on Thursday 2nd April. Having investigated the manifestos of other parties, they do all, in fact, dedicate a section to mental health care – even UKIP – with the Green Party by far having the most comprehensive. So why is it still so uncommon to hear it discussed openly in front of the British Public?
Vice Media and Mind join forces
The Vice Guide to Mental Health is a collaboration between Vice Media and the mental health charity Mind, who along with Rethink Mental Health are currently leading the Time to Change campaign. This week-long editorial project has been given a large scope, covering 15 territories and being translated into 6 different languages, the aim being to highlight just how urgent an issue it is that none of the main parties are pledging enough support for the NHS and especially for mental health care. Being a one amongst four, this notion thrills me.
I excitedly browsed the plethora of articles, which more often than not rang true. Being a mental health blogger and writer myself, I wanted to jump for joy when I read something that felt like it was written from my own perspective. That affinity you feel when you realise that you aren’t alone, that you aren’t the only crazy person in the world. The project highlighted many of the key issues surrounding mental health’s position in our society, and I have compiled those which I feel are most important or interesting.
One article titled ‘You have no idea what the term ‘Depressed’ really means until it devours you’ tackled an issue which I highlighted myself in a recent article. It addressed how in our society today, flippant use of language surrounding mental health issues including depression and suicidal thoughts unintentionally undermines those suffering with mental illness. Remember that time the word ‘gay’ was used to describe something not to your liking? Or when people of a different race would be referred to as ‘coloured’? I’m hoping that in the next few years using mental illnesses as adjectives will be a thing of the past and that if someone likes their books arranged in alphabetical order on their bookshelf, they won’t be called ‘OCD’, or that if you don’t quite get the grade you wanted, you won’t react by ‘wanting to kill yourself’, and this article’s assessment of the issue was spot on.
I really appreciated another article titled ‘How it actually feels to live with severe anxiety’. This article firstly distinguished the difference between ‘normal’ anxiety, and the ‘irrational’ anxiety which consumes your life. The difficulty with illnesses such as depression and anxiety, is both can be used to describe a mood, but someone who is anxious before an exam or a job interview does not necessarily have Anxiety Disorder, just as someone who is feeling depressed after a relationship break-up does not necessarily have Depression. This particular article also discussed how the idea of taking medication daily in order to control one’s mental illness should not be stigmatised. I like to make the comparison with diabetes, and how nobody would discriminate against someone who had to inject themselves with insulin each day as their body does not produce it autonomously. It is the same for anti-depressants. When someone’s brain does not produce a sufficient amount of serotonin, a supplement is needed, and with the majority of politicians reinforcing that mental illness should be treated like physical illness in their manifestos, there really is no place for discrimination.
Mental Health check-ups
Another question raised is ‘Why do mental health disorders emerge in your twenties?’ The writer goes on to describe how events in your early twenties can either create or exacerbate mental health issues, highlighting how conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar are hereditary, as well as depression and anxiety. So taking into account both biological and environmental factors, more preventative measures should be taken if you are already ‘at risk’ to a mental illness. Regardless of the psychopathological aspect, it is implied how visits to a therapist should come under general wellbeing, so that just as you would take yearly visits to the dentist or opticians, it is important to schedule in a check-up on your mental health also. After all, your brain is just another part of your anatomy which requires specialist care and upkeep.
Put your ego aside
The article ‘How do you help someone you love when they’re depressed’ really struck a chord with me. When I’m in a bad state of mind I’m always conscious that my feelings might be misconstrued as ungratefulness for those who love me. I know it can be a hard thing for some people to get their heads around, but a depressed person’s suicidal thoughts do not stem from their lack of love for you.
If anything, it’s because they love you that they want to take away the burden that they see themselves as. This article encourages people who love and care for someone who is suffering with depression to put your ego aside, and accept that whilst you can’t be their saviour, you can be there for them when they need you the most. Depression is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of illness, and that it will affect people in many different ways. This is why being open and starting to talk about mental illness is crucial, as more often than not when you do start talking about it, you find that others have experienced, or are experiencing a similar thing. Whether they are suffering themselves or they are caring for or know someone who is.
Last week, VICE has made an exceptionally bold move which I have nothing but appreciation for. Increasing the prevalence of mental health awareness in British politics is a trend I hope to see continue throughout my lifetime. The media has been playing a more and more important role, with publications such as IVORY magazine making issues such as psychology, mental health and mindfulness more than just a subsection on an NHS website. Over the past few years, Twitter and other social media have been constantly active with campaigns to raise mental health awareness, proving that the media plays an indispensable role in this issue. In time, talking about mental illness will become normalised in our society, so that everyone who needs help and support can speak up and get it without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.