When is “OK” not “ok”? and what can you do in that point in time? This year, Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 takes place from 16-22 May 2016. In light of the growing knowledge of what it is and in support of those that deal with the various symptoms of mental health problems, Mental Health Awareness week aims to dispel the stigma and provide information on the symptoms.
The definition of “Mental Health Problems” is wide and varied because we all have mental health and can look at it the same way that we look at physical health. The medical description defines symptoms of mental health problems as traditionally:
“divided into groups called either ‘neurotic’ or ‘psychotic’ symptoms. ‘Neurotic’ covers those symptoms which can be regarded as severe forms of ‘normal’ emotional experiences such as depression, anxiety or panic. Less common are ‘psychotic’ symptoms, which interfere with a person’s perception of reality, and may include hallucinations such as seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that no one else can….” (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/about-mental-health/what-are-mental-health-problems#sthash.cnCckzRY.dpuf)
There is a call to action for information, advice, research, support and preventative treatments and services that support people dealing with these symptoms and also provide education and support for those that are affected or are just discovering they have symptoms. For example, there are things that individuals can do daily or regularly to reduce instances of anxiety before it leads to more distressing symptoms or even full blown depression. This year, the Mental Health Awareness campaigns are centred around the theme of relationships and the promotion of good relationships, mounting pressures on work–life balance and the impact of bullying and unhealthy relationships.
According to recent statistics, “It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in England will experience a mental health problem in any given year.” This means that if you sit next to 3 of your closest friends, it is likely that one of you has been affected by some kind of mental health problem now, in the past or will do in future. If it is none of them, it may be yourself. This could be any number of mental health problem but the most common according to the data is; depression and anxiety. Both of these conditions have a strong statistical link to “economic disadvantage across society”. The report states the “The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences” Mental Health and Wellbeing is a subject that is so internal and so personal to each and every one of us, it could be seen as one of the last taboos of our time. The good news is that the days of locking away the mentally ill among us into secret institutions is a thing of the past especially as the causes are so deeply rooted in the economic conditions and level of wealth of society members. With the changes to benefits and welfare, increases in rents in the major cities, changes to availability of jobs and referrals to Food banks causing a lot of stresses within families, this statistical evidence cannot be ignored and action is forced upon us as a community to act or be overwhelmed.
Giving a voice to sufferers of mental illness is vital. The personal nature of mental health means that without an outlet for these stresses, we become a nation of silent sufferers, pretending everything is ok. The risk is that at any moment, the ticking “time bomb” may take one too many pressures, resulting in an action that causes harm to either the individual or anyone that happens to be around them. Allowing people to voice their feelings and take appropriate action in the early stages is vital. Campaigns such as beMindful.co.uk use a stress test that takes away the stigma of mental health problems by focusing on the effect of the external stresses in life. This way individuals look at how they can best manage themselves. Self-diagnoses apps and tests pinpoint a person’s level of anxiety at that point in time and encourages them to seek help if the results suggest to or find ways to manage the level that they are at. The Mindfulness course promises to bring many potential benefits including reduced levels of stress, depression and anxiety within only 4 weeks when practised daily. Individuals have the opportunity to not only recognise their current mental state and be accountable for it but to manage it and make active decisions to improve their mental wellbeing.
Sometimes asking “R U OK?” is an important question and sometimes when the answer is “no” it becomes an even more important question. Knowing what to do and how to deal with the answer then becomes everybody’s problem and that’s why Mental Health Awareness Week is so necessary.
Abi the fashion blogger