Is it just me or are more and more people talking about mental health nowadays? People are willing to share their own or others’ experiences, most commonly their struggles. I think this is great and, in many ways, this increased willingness to discuss your own or others’ mental health is positive. Talking about such important topics normalises them, raises awareness, increases understanding and gradually reduces stigma.
Unfortunately, there is a down side to this. Increasing awareness means increasing demand. If more people become comfortable talking about their mental health, they are more likely to seek help. When services are at a high demand, particularly NHS health services, more funding is required to ensure that enough professionals are available to attend to the greater volume of people.
You may hear on the news that funding towards mental health services is increasing. However, there is still a long way to go. Currently, waiting lists to receive psychotherapy in the UK are at an all-time high, with people often waiting as long as two years to see a specialist on the NHS (British Medical Association, 2018). Furthermore, the number of people on medications such as antidepressants is increasing annually (British Medical Journal, 2019).
In my experience, it seems that more and more people are unsure of what they should do if they are struggling with their mental health. In many cases, they wait until they’ve reached rock bottom before seeking help. When they do, they are met with waiting lists or are prescribed some tablets and sent on their way. So, my question is, should we be moving towards a culture which promotes mental wellness from birth?
A culture which encourages people, from birth, to be their own unique person. This includes no negative opinions or pressures from relatives/friends/carers to act, look or be a certain way. Giving people the freedom to develop their own personalities, habits, views, likes and dislikes and make their own choices without being judged or told that they are wrong. A culture which allows people to speak openly and communicate their needs without shame and to put boundaries in place where necessary. The opportunity to develop our emotional intelligence so that we treat ourselves and others respectfully, no mind games or negative comparisons. Putting ourselves first by encouraging daily self-care such as nutrition, time to reflect and do things which make us feel good and acknowledging that this is not selfish.
Instead of looking outside of ourselves to fix our problems or to make us happy, we look within and explore our inner world (emotions, thoughts, feelings). In doing so, we tune in to what is really important and worthwhile- connection to ourselves and others. This is by no means an easy feat but equally, there are no ‘quick fixes’ for poor mental health. I realise that making such changes would require a cultural revolution but it would be free and, in my opinion, create a much healthier and happier society.
British Medical Association (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bma.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/2018/february/new-bma-research-unveils-blindspot-in-mental-healthcare
British Medical Journal (2019). Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1508