Its mental health week in the UK . Hands up who had heard of this 4 or 5 years ago? Its prominence has rocketed in the press and social media this year for good reason. Statistics collected by Gov.uk highlight that in any given year, one in six adults experience at least one diagnosible mental health problem. Half of all mental health issues have been established by the age of 14 years and there are many more children and adults who potentially need help but may have poor access to services for diagnosis and treatment. When I sat down to write this blog it was with my Nurse head on. Initially I clambered up on my soap box and had a virtual rant about funding in the NHS and social care. The statistics are compelling and by 11.30 pm last night I had almost written an assignment. My long suffering Husband firstly told me to turn the light off, then reminded me gently that my blogs were meant to be positive and enjoyable and that I promised to keep them informative but light.
So with that in mind I'm focusing on how a trickle of interest in mental health a few years back has led to the floodgates opening. In my mind this is remarkable turn of pace, fuelled by the media, social media and indeed celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax, Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and JK Rowling to name but a few and who can forget Prince William and Harry opening up about their own personal struggles with mental health over the years? There is no doubt that the dark cloud of stigma mental health has been under for many years is beginning to lift. Yet there is still work to be done, in classrooms up and down the UK, in homes, hospitals and in workplaces. People should not be any more ashamed of having a mental health problem than having a problem with their blood pressure or gall stones! Especially men....men are particularly vulnerable, in fact a survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation found that not only are men far less likely than women to seek professional support, they are also less likely to disclose a mental health problem to family and friends. Men are supposed to fix problems, be strong, supportive, reliable, manly...not 'needy', qualities which perhaps have been instilled into them from an early age. This is perhaps what makes them so vulnerable when they cannot live up to those ideals.
Perhaps work is a big stress factor? According to the 2018 UK workplace stress report, males age 25 to 34 are particularly pressured in their careers at this point. The charity Mind are are focusing on the topic of workplace well being and stress this year during mental health awareness week and there are lots of top tips and information on their website mind.org.uk. Additionally the idea of Mental health first aid in schools and workplaces makes sense to me. MHFA England is a self -funded social enterprise which strives to train people within organisations and schools to help listen, reassure and respond appropriately, even in a crisis or potentially stop one from occurring. Clearly this is not a substitute for skilled and trained psychotherapists or psychiatrists but it does promote well being and self-care techniques and aims to increase confidence and self-esteem. We have trained 'medical' first aiders in most places so why not this approach?
Blogger and mental health campaigner James Down agrees that awareness campaigns are a necessity and an ideal platform to discuss mental health openly, however he does warn that just having conversations about it or acknowledging it doesn't go far enough. What we need are resources and the political drive to support those who are suffering from problems alongside robust investment in adult, child and adolescent mental health services.
Its a start, a much needed change of direction and culture so lets hope the momentum and funding increases to match the needs....