For mental health to be recognised as a true form of illness and to be taken seriously, it is important that people are well educated on the various forms and signs in which an illness can take hold. Whilst there has been clear progression in campaigning for mental health and its awareness, there is still a negative stigma that is attached.
It Is More Common Than You Think
Statistically, one in four people will experience some form of mental health problem in their life. A mental illness can affect anyone close to you such as your family, friends and work colleagues. Whilst many may relate mental illness to someone older, around one in ten children will experience a mental health issue.
For the UK, around one in 12 of the whole population will be diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives. Also, the UK has the highest rate of self-harm in Europe at 400 per 100,000. Mental health can occur in anybody, regardless of who you are in society. Many high-profile stars have come out to talk about their experiences with mental health such as Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds.
Celebrities can hold incredible power as they have a potential platform of millions that they can reach out to, to educate those on the seriousness of the issue. However, many also take their own lives because of mental health problems such as Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington who sadly died by suicide in July of this year. Therefore, it is important to educate society as a whole on the implications of mental health and why we should not categorise people.
The Stigma and Discrimination
Even though there are over 450 million people worldwide suffering from a mental health problem, many face a strong social stigma and discrimination not only from society but also their family, friends and employers. Nearly 9 out of 10 people with a mental health condition say that the discrimination they face has a strong negative effect on their lives. Examples of this include finding work, maintaining a relationship, living in appropriate housing and being socially included in the mainstream society.
Society in general stereotype and pre-judge those with mental illnesses to be violent and dangerous when in fact, they are more at risk of hurting themselves or being attacked as opposed to hurting others. The stigma and discrimination can worsen a person’s mental health issue, with many delaying or putting off getting help in fear of not being believed or being told it isn’t anything serious. There are many aspects of life that can be linked to mental health such as poor housing, unemployment and poverty which result in people being trapped in a cycle of illness.
The media is also to blame regarding the stigma of mental health. Many media reports often associate mental illness with people who are violent and a danger to society. Research has shown that the best way to tackle these stereotypes is through first hand contact with those who have experienced of a mental illness.
There Is a Difference
Another factor regarding mental health stigma is how many perceive it to be nothing serious. Anxiety affects a lot of us in society but usually only to a very minor degree. For example, it is normal to feel nervous before a presentation or a big event in your life but for some, anxiety can take a much stronger hold and can even result in a person not being able to function in day to day life. It is important to recognise that there is a big difference between the two and how some mental health issues can affect one person completely differently to the next.
There are dozens of organisations and charities around the UK and across the world who specialise in mental health. Mind is a mental health charity in England and Wales. The charity works hard to make sure nobody must face a mental health problem alone. Over the 70 years since the charity was founded, they have been able to help millions across the country through face to face meetings, social media and celebrity ambassadors.
Another voluntary led service is Time to Change. The main aims of the organisation are to improve public attitudes and behaviour towards those suffering with mental health problems. Since Time to Change began in 2007, over 4 million adults in England have improved attitudes towards mental illness (resulting in an improvement of 9.6% between 2008 and 2016). Mental Health and Money Advice can also help with financial issues for those suffering with mental health issues.
Lastly, whilst there have been improvements with the way mental health is perceived, there is still a long way to go to ensure that those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, do not suffer in silence.