Why Aren’t We Talking?

Mental health is an issue which is gaining more and more momentum year by year, yet there’s still a huge stigma around it. Only a mere few days ago, (October 10), was it world mental health day – not a particularly well known day, but something that was getting a lot of love on social media nevertheless. “So if it’s gaining more acknowledgment, why does it still face such adversity?” I hear you ask…

Despite being such an important issue, mental health is still regarded as inferior to other health issues, which seems entirely absurd. Mental health is just as vital to one’s wellbeing as physical health, if not more so. Someone suffering from depression is just as likely to struggle going to work in the morning as someone with a broken leg. What some people, shockingly, fail to remember is that the brain is one of the most important organs in the body, and if it’s not functioning properly, neither can we.

This is an issue which I’ve always been passionate about since it first came to my attention, and although I was already somewhat aware of the importance of the matter, the statistics still shocked me. Did you know that 1 in 4 people will suffer from some form of mental health disorder this year alone? That could be your best friend, your brother, your work colleague or even yourself, so why would we not want to talk about it? As aforementioned, part of the battle surrounding mental health is the stigma it comes with and the first way to combat that is to make it something that’s not a taboo to talk about.

Another statistic that may shock you: British men are three times more likely to die by suicide than British women are; I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that we discourage men from talking about their feelings and worries? If we only encouraged young men to express themselves more perhaps that statistic might be different…

So my question is, why aren’t we talking? From what I recall of PSHE in school we were taught about drugs, sex and bullying… Never once was mental health mentioned, which is funny because I’d say mental health links heavily to all those traditional adolescent topics. Both substance abuse and sex have been linked to personality disorders in various ways and it’s been suggested that experience of bullying can increase chances of developing them. Of course simply teaching kids about mental health issues doesn’t guarantee they won’t develop them, some things just can’t be helped, but it would sure as hell stop them from being so confused about their feelings. If a 15 year old girl is facing depression or an eating disorder the last thing she needs is to feel like she’s abnormal for it too. At the very least, if we educate kids they’ll have a better chance of recognising what’s wrong and being able to find help.

If my statistics haven’t convinced you of the realities of mental health, let me talk to you on a more informal level: I don’t think I knew a single person at school who didn’t go through some form of problem, whether that be an eating disorder, self-harm or something else of that kind. Surely it’s obvious how wrong that is – being a teenager is supposed to be the best time of your life, you shouldn’t be burdened by inadequacy and the like. I don’t know what it is that has caused this apparent sudden spike in mental health problems, especially amongst my generation, I’m inclined to blame it on social media but can a responsibility this large really be thrust onto one thing? What I am sure of is that it’s our job as fellow humans to remove the stigma and encourage people to start talking about mental health.

If you or someone you love is suffering from mental health issues here are some websites that offer help and advice:

Mind – Help lines and general info

ChildLine – Confidential advice up to the age of 19

Samaritans – Free helpline 

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