Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Disclaimer - What is written in my blogs is from my own experience of the world with an addition of scientific evidences and references
Despite the great efforts to extinguish the #stigma of having #mentalhealth problems by organisations, charities, individuals and even celebrities, it still remains a very stigmatised social problem. Not enough people feel they can speak on this topic, maybe because of a fear of no-one listening, maybe they feel it will bring up too much personal memories for themselves or maybe they feel they will be judged for speaking about it. But why? Why is there such a fear of speaking about something which 1 in 4 people are struggling with? How does if make any sense to ignore it? When someone is going through a physical ailment, skin disease, or even a broken arm, they are not ashamed to ask for help. However when struggles relating to the matters of the mind come to the surface, people suffer in silence. Illnesses of the mind have the ability to create worse results than physical ailments in some cases, therefore it should be understood to be as serious as physical illnesses, if not even more.
The types of reasons people with mental health issues give for why they don't speak about their own mental health is extensive. It could range from, 'there is no-one willing to listen to me' to 'I'd rather not burden anyone with my issues'. To be in such advanced times and for people to still struggle to speak about mental health is truly saddening because it shows that we are failing to normalise mental health and eradicate the stigma attached to it. People don't feel comfortable in talking about their issues and they are aware of the consequences this has but are stuck in this mental box of not being able to communicate their issues. The sooner we speak about these issues, the sooner we can come to a solution.
Why is mental health often seen as negative?
When you think about the words 'Mental Health', you probably think about depression, anxiety, counselling, psychiatric wards, but when the words 'Physical Health' are spoken you probably think about the gym, healthy diets, running etc. The connotations people have of these two terms are worlds apart, when in actual fact they are very much closely related with each other. Both your physical health and mental health are connected in a way you would have never imagined. If you have a broken arm and it stops you being able to function with it for days, weeks or even months on end, it can make you feel highly upset and even spiral you into a depression. The same can be said for the other way round with regards to an individual who has bad mental health, they may lack the drive to go to the gym due to their anxiety or depression. This will result in their physical health deteriorating and their overall health will be limited. These two terms come under the umbrella term of 'health'.
Just because you can't see mental health, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It may not be seen with the eyes however it can certainly be felt by the body and mind, also the signs and symptoms of bad mental health can be seen with the eyes. The sooner people are made aware of the true vastness of mental health issues, the sooner they will understand that it's very serious and that it needs to be tackled.
Even older people's mental health is neglected with only 6% of them being referred to the mental health services. This type of neglect is what perpetuates the cycle of mental health issues because in many cases people's issues are not being addressed appropriately. It may not be an intentional form of neglect on mental health issues however there should be a joint effort with the individual who is struggling with mental health and the professionals to communicate with each other on these matters. This becomes increasingly hard when an individual is not open about their feelings, emotions and mental health issues so therefore it is the professionals responsibility to recognise signs of abuse, neglect, depression, self-harm etc.
How to normalise mental health:
Group Talks - Speaking together as part of a group rather than with just one person shows strength and community (speaking alone to someone has it's benefits too). It makes people realise they are not the only ones going through problems and that others have also been in the same boat for so long. Many people feel empowered when they come together after having endured pain because they are speaking to people much like themselves and express themselves to each other because they have found the place where people will not judge them and understand them more than the average person would. These types of group talks can be arranged in community centres, educational establishments, youth centres and so on in order to create cohesion and understanding of mental health.
General Support Network - A support network could be inclusive of everyone around you who cares for you or maybe just one or two people who you truly trust. Either way, having people regularly there for you in times of hardship and times of ease is most certainly an aspect which benefits the human brain. Engaging with people about your mental health issues enables you to have a new founded place to let your feelings out, it's much better out than in as they say.
Be Open - Being open about how you feel and not pretending you are okay is much easier said than done but it's very much possible. It's contextual of course, because being too open could lead to unwanted ears hearing your problems hence why those who support you should be the ears who hear your worries and concerns. Bottling up your emotions and feelings in the hope that they will eventually go away only brings pain and hardship because humans are social creatures and need to speak and interact in order to gain the assistance and support that's required.
Mental health services - If you feel you are struggling to cope with your emotions and mental health struggles then going for Counselling, Mentoring, Coaching and so on are all methods through which you can talk to professionals in a safe and confidential environment. Information regarding what will take place in those sessions is explained by the Counsellor/Mentor/Coach etc.
Knowing you are safe - A lot of the time if someone feels they cannot trust anyone or they are in an unsafe environment and are not being cared for, they will not trust you or others with personal information about their mental health and will not feel like opening up. Each member of the public should ensure they are keeping themselves and those in their environment safe where best possible to protect people from harm, whether it be physically or mentally.
A lot of what has been mentioned is already taking place however it needs to be executed more often and it has to be actioned in much more places across the UK and around the globe. In order for us to progress in the world of mental health, we have to apply theory in a practical form.
Blog.providence.org. 2020.Is Mental Health Neglected In Our Children’S Schools?. [online] Available at: <https://blog.providence.org/archive/is-mental-health-neglected-in-our-children-s-schools> [Accessed 12 March 2020].
Alistair Burns, M. and Alistair Burns, M., 2020.NHS England » Better Access To Mental Health Services For Older People. [online] England.nhs.uk. Available at: <https://www.england.nhs.uk/blog/mh-better-access/> [Accessed 12 April 2020].