When someone mentions the word health, the majority of people assume that they’re talking about physical health; cuts, bruises, sickness and the thousands of other physical ailments that plague the population. But what if we were to say that cuts, bruises, breaks and strains aren’t always on the outside? To what extent do you really understand that not all wounds are visible, and that some wounds will never heal? As a collective society, we are scared to accept that it’s okay not to be okay, and ask those around us that may be struggling with this hidden, gaping wound those three words that can be the start of the end of their struggle…. ‘How are you?’
It’s time to talk, and not in clichés and whispers, I mean really talk.
Between 2003 and 2013, 18,220 people in the UK alone committed suicide as a result of Mental Health problems. That’s 18,220 people who may have been told to ‘man up’, ‘it’s just a phase’ or ‘to snap out of it’. That’s 18,220 people that will never get to hold their loved ones again, watch their favourite films or quite simply, live life. Its 18,220 people who saw death as a better option than living the life they faced. When this tragedy occurs, hundreds of outpourings of heartfelt condolences for those taken to soon begin to flood social media and the news papers. But why, as a nation, do we find it so difficult so translate these condolences into a listening ear before it’s too late?
Although there has been a tremendous increase in our acceptance of the issue, we are still struggling to understand how the issue can be tackled, and why it’s so important to not just brush it under the carpet. Although the taboo of mental illness has been almost completely shattered, our ability to deal with the issue is incredibly clouded. The widespread knowledge of the existence of Mental Health issues has led to a blasé attitude manifesting within society, an attitude that screams ‘snap out of it’, even though such a comment is equivalent to telling a paraplegic to get up and walk. Many people will argue that this comparison is incorrect, but when are we going to realise that mental health is just as important as physical health? With comments like these, it’s no wonder that 2 out of 3 people suffering with mental illness suffer in silence.
Unfortunately, although knowledge of the existence of Mental Health issues has increased, this clouded knowledge has led to a spectrum being subconsciously created by society in which some mental illnesses are deemed lesser than others, thus promoting silence amongst the community of people that suffer on a daily basis. Anxiety, depression, bipolar and other common illnesses are all unfortunately tarred with the same brush of shame… but it is those who choose not to understand, and to belittle the sufferers that should be ashamed.
We are taught by society, from a relatively early age, how to use social media to create an altered reality compared to the truth of our lives. How is it that a meme can be shared millions of times by young people across a plethora of social media platforms, but 70% of young people suffering with mental health issues have never had appropriate interventions to tackle their illnesses? Boys are taught that it’s not okay to cry, and that they need to ‘man up’, and girls are trained to believe that having emotions is nothing but a manifestation of their hormones; these attitudes are instilled into the newest members of society at an incredibly early stage of their lives and then wonder why 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year.
But it’s not just young people who battle with this darkness every day. Working environments can, and do, have a huge impact on Mental Health, a fact that many workplaces fail to recognise. At the beginning of employment, sections on disability and existing physical illnesses are filled out as part of standard procedure. Workplaces insist on, for the most part, being places of diversity and promote the inclusion minorities… There is never a section on Mental Health issues. There is no form of employee screening or care management for those living with (or at risk of) depression, and as a result, thousands of people are consumed by the pressures of their mental illnesses coupled with the pressures of the working world. These people go to work often wearing the biggest smile, even though they barely slept the night before, but this act cannot continue forever; evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions, but still employers choose not to implement any kind screening or care management. If we were to talk, to ensure that the stigmas surrounding the issue were abolished, then maybe we would have a happier, and healthier, workforce. To be happy as a whole, mental health plays a huge role, and its about time physical and mental health were treated with the same level of importance within the workplace.
Imagine if the world was free from this stigma, if those suffering could talk openly within society without fear of judgement. Imagine if we spoke about victims of mental health in the same light that we spoke about victims of other illnesses, because neither party asked for it, and neither party knew it was coming.
Mental Health matters. YOU matter. All those that suffer matter. Isn’t it about time we removed the stigma and understood that along with every type of Mental Health illness, there are thousands of sufferers fighting their battles alone.
How easy would it be to heal then?