Mental Health: Let's Talk About It


Over the weekend, the hashtag titled #MentalHealthCareSoPoor surfaced on Twitter, trending at number two in the United Kingdom. On Friday evening I spent a good part of an hour reading through some of the responses and am unable to limit my thoughts to several one-hundred and forty character tweets. It simply isn't enough to be able to write eloquently and meaningfully about a topic which affects the majority of our society, regardless of whether we're willing to discuss it or not. For many, mental health is a sensitive topic and understandably, everybody has different stories and experiences. Until fairly recently, it was something that I tried to brush under the rug despite the huge impact it was having on my life. It was also something I never spoke about for a multitude of reasons which I probably wont dabble into in this post. Mental health is something I am very passionate about, even though I don't talk about it much at all.

Although I want to try and write eloquently and coherently about mental health, this will probably be quite a long and possibly rambley piece. From writing that first paragraph above, I have edited it at least six or seven times and I'm sure that I will continue to do so as I get further into this post.

I'm going to start this post off by making a statement which could cause quite a bit of controversy. Despite many people saying that 'the stigma surrounding mental health is a thing of the past', I couldn't disagree with it more if I tried. Yes, we may slowly be making headway with breaking down people's misconceptions about mental health, but we're nowhere near where we should be. Just because someone isn't sat at the doctors with visible symptoms, doesn't mean that they don't have an illness. Mental health and physical health are equally as important, and equally as damaging if left untreated- I might even go as far as to say that not treating mental health issues has worse implications than not treating someone's physical health. Nobody really likes to talk about it, maybe because we don't know how, or because we don't want to offend anyone by what we say. Due to the stigma that still surrounds the topic, many people don't feel comfortable talking about their problems, making the issue worsen and worsen. I know that stigmas aren't something that you can see, but I feel as if it really is a silent stigma. With other big topics like sexuality and racism, you occasionally hear people talking about it in public with their friends or family. How often is it though that you hear someone walking down the street talking openly about their mental health? Very rarely.



I feel like the first major step in combating mental health issues is to remove the stigma which our society has created. A society which is now trying to tackle a byproduct caused by it's own naivety, and in my opinion idiocy. As a society, I feel that we're not educated enough to understand the complicated topic that mental illness is. This is of course no excuse for the stigma we have today, but I think that a lack of education is to blame. There are more mental health conditions than just depression and anxiety, although they are two of the most common. Even under these two illnesses there are other forms of it, like seasonal affective disorder (SAD), post-natal depression, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. The list goes on to include other mental health conditions like OCD, psychosis, eating disorders, body dismorphia and schizophrenia.

Just looking through and engaging in the hashtag earlier made me realise how many young people struggle with keeping their mental health under control. Sadly, it also made me realise how many people have struggled with using the services supposedly implemented to help tackle the problem. It's clear to see that there is still a long way to go. Although in the UK we are incredibly lucky to have a service that is accessible for everyone, it seems as if the mental health aspect of it is lacking. With statistics suggesting that one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue at some point during their lifetime, why are the services we do have, not working for everyone? According to the Mental Health Network, funding for NHS mental health services has fallen in the last five years by as much as £600 million. With one in four of us due to suffer from mental health issues during our lifetime, it's safe to say that these vital services cannot afford to lose parts of their funding.

From what I could gather, the majority of users tweeting under the hashtag #MentalHealthCareSoPoor were young people, many of whom had experienced trouble working with services like CAMHS, or even just speaking to their GP about their mental health. A statistic from NSPCC says that "One fifth of all children referred to local specialist NHS mental health services, are rejected for treatment". That is a huge number of possibly vulnerable children being left in the dark and not getting treatment for an illness which could be having a serious impact on their development. As a seventeen year old, I found it incredibly difficult even going to the GP to talk about my mental health, and after months of saying I was going to go and then backing out at the last minute, I finally got the push I needed and went. Imagine how it must feel to be a child who has finally found the courage to ask for help, and then be part of that one fifth who were rejected from treatment. If that were to happen to me, it would be enough to put me off speaking to someone about it again.

The one big thing that I can't understand is why we are lacking in the preventative measures. It doesn't take a genius to see that our society is struggling with treating mental health, so why are we not educating people and putting preventative measures in place? Surely focusing on preventing mental health issues is better than simply treating them when it becomes too much?  When I was still at school, mental health was briefly discussed in PSHCE or life skills lessons, but not in enough depth for me to understand it like I do now. Depression is not the only mental health condition, but that's what I would have thought if I hadn't gone on to educate myself further during my own time. Depression was the only mental health issue we were briefly taught about, and even then it was really only things that we already knew. Sex education is taught in schools from as young as ten or eleven, so why isn't mental health taught from that age too? I'm a strong believer that education and understanding are the way forward with tackling our society's mental health issues.

Although this post has been fairly doom and gloom, I feel that it is something so incredibly important. It's important that we discuss issues like mental health and work on improving our support network for when and if we need it. The hashtag is well worth a read if you have a time, Although much of the hashtag consisted of tweets sharing their negative experiences with mental health services, it's always nice to see some optimism.

20 comments:

  1. There are so many stigmas surrounding mental health. I'm so glad to see someone who understands and cares! Thanks for sharing :)

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  2. I see this sort of thing happening in the US as well. There is a stigma associated with mental illness, as well as lack of knowledge about disorders, that prevents many people from getting treated. Even those that want treatment may not be able to afford it. There's a lot of reform that needs to take place. Thank you for sharing your insights on this important issue.

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  3. Mental health affects every aspect. Was just talking with my husband tonight about a family member that I feel would benefit from some counseling. It affects every area, eating habits, friendships, work, and on.

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  4. I agree with everything you have said. Stigma is alive and well and still growing. The only time we receive anything positive is when a celebrity comes out and shares their mental health disorder but like most things, it is soon forgotten. One thing that needs to change is from the mental health practitioners and stop labeling people with words such as "you are bipolar" or "are borderline". The language must stop. These arenillnessnthat we have. It is not who we are.

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  5. I agree with you, mental health should be taught in schools just as sex education. It's so sad to see where our society is and where it's heading.

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  6. There definitely is a stigma around mental health and discussing it so thanks for opening the discussion!

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  7. Thank you for bravely opening up to the world and talking about this! I've been talking about my past struggle with Postpartum Depression for some time now. How important it is to let the world know mental health care is an issue and that people aren't alone in their struggle. <3

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  8. There is absolutely a ton of stigma around mental health. It would be wonderful if it were treated like any other health issue. I would love to see everyone getting counseling included with their health care, and mental health days that aren't regarded as "just days off." I think everyone can use a mental health day. And those that have other issues... it shouldn't be so hard. I've been able to overcome a lot of my anxiety and my overwhelmed feelings with the use of essential oils and I am eternally grateful that they were introduced to me. I used to not know what was happening... just thought I got stressed and annoyed easily (which is still prob true, but there is more to it).

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  9. Love this post. I couldn't agree more with you. I've struggled in the past. GP's are all so quick to hand out meds rather than thinking about other options and preventative methods. I had major side effects on anti-depressents and decided to go the natural road. What worked gang busters for me though was running. I used to go out and run until my head stopped thinking, sometimes 3 hours. I found after a couple of weeks I had a natural high and started to sleep better and feel really, really good. I'm not saying it will work for everyone but you should try your best to take control of your own condition. Speaking about it is also important. I crumbled at the end before I managed to turn myself around (I had a lot going on and I just broke). I was afraid to talk to friends and tell them how I was feeling for fear of looking weak or needy. When my friends found out and picked me off the floor I could not have asked for a better response. If you're in a place like that, reach out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. I feel as if I've been very lucky with my GP. Since I went to get help, she has offered me follow up sessions every two or three weeks just to make sure I'm doing okay whilst I wait for my counselling session to come around. I hope that you're doing okay now!

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  10. So many of us have struggled at one point or another. There is so much need to improve healthcare around it. Even when reaching out for help, it can be a very long wait to get the help you need. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Thank you for this post. It is so important.
    My mother used to get so mad at me for being open about my mental health and my response was always the same "I don't want my children to grow up into a world where if they have mental health issues it is something to be ashamed of."
    You are right the stigma isn't gone, in many ways I feel it is worse as now I often see people commenting on cases that make the media "Oh they are pulling the mental health card to get away with doing the wrong thing." A absolutely disgusting ignorant attitude.
    We also often see the attitude of just chose to now be mentally ill, well it doesn't work that way, I can't just switch off my PTSD, anxiety and depression, it doesn't work that way, my child can't choose to not have panic attacks, my best friend can't choose to stop having a mental health issue that is slowly killing her.
    Often when we seek help we get inappropriate help which makes us worse, I have seen this time and again but I keep trying to get help for myself and my loved ones. We have just started with a new psychologist and things look really promising as the first appointment she picked up things everyone else has missed and said I was imagining them.
    If only we could all access great care and get the help we need without the battle to get that care first which just makes things worse.

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  12. Thank you so much for sharing this and for being so vulnerable with your opinions. I couldn't agree more that our stigma is nowhere near over - in America it's just as bad, if not worse.

    So many people end up taking their own lives because of the fear of not being able to get help and inevitably being labeled "weak" or a "sissy" if they ask for it (especially in the case of men). This is the sole reason we have so many horrific shootings and violence in my country and the world, but many fail to see that.

    We really need to encourage therapy and "help" as a normal thing that we should ALL be entitled to the resources for, regardless if we are truly mentally ill or not. It's good to get a check-up every once in a while, too! We could all use it :) As a survivor of severe anxiety disorders, I resonated with this post so much!

    xo Kathryn
    www.fashionablyfrank.com

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  13. Thank you for sharing this! I honestly couldn't agree more. Reaching out for help should be something that is accessible and accepted as necessary in today's world. Unfortunately, we still have a ways to go as a society but we're always progressing and working towards change :)
    http://www.tamberdi.blogspot.com

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  14. Thank you for this! I work in mental health and can't get over the way society treats people that are seeking mental health help.

    www.bakersandbabies.com

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  15. Thank you so much for writing this and raising awareness. My experiences in England with the Mental Health system have been varied to say the least. From a mental health nurse telling me that I should get over feeling suicidal because her friend's brother killed himself six months ago to an amazing nurse who visited me three times a week to make sure I was looked after. There just isn't enough money here. Not enough beds for the acutely mentally ill. Not enough counsellors therefore waiting lists sometimes of at least a year. I am engaging with the local mental health team now and whilst they sometimes slip up, and believe me I have a doctor husband who has my back with that thankfully, I have to try to understand that they are doing their best with very little government support. This makes me so angry. When will mental illness finally be seen for the HUGE problem that is is for so many people. While stigma remains nothing will change.

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  16. It's so important to start talking about mental health. It's so hard for people to understand an illness that they can't see.

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