In the last quarter century, since World Mental Health Day was first introduced, mental health has progressed forward so much, stepping away from the stigma and closer towards understanding, respect and awareness. But, is it enough?
Though the stigma around mental health is still prominent you can’t ignore how far contemporary society has come. With the help of celebrities many have begun to accept that illness can occur within your head and the illnesses are all serious.
Celebrities have been turning the spotlight away from themselves and onto the dark places inside their minds that they often try to hide: the vulnerable corners of their souls that struggle with mental illness. This year Prince Harry rallied to the cause sharing his own struggles and Chris Hughes, Love Island contestant, used his new found fame to feature in that new advert.
The list is positively endless with celebrities choosing to air their woes to the public not for attention but for awareness – even picture perfect people need help, we all do. It’s okay not to be okay.
But it’s not only stigma that stops individuals from speaking out, it’s the devastating reality that all too often once people do seek help they are failed by the health system.
Josie Hamilton, 21, is another individual who feels failed by the NHS, recently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder it has taken years for Josie to receive support that goes further than CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). She is currently attending an NHS funded day unit for those struggling with their mental health.
“Almost everyone I know could benefit from NHS services but it’s tragically underfunded, waiting lists for talking therapies can be as long as 18 months.
“This led to my mental health deteriorating to the point that the crisis team had to admit me to a day unit. I don’t think I would have needed this acute care if NHS services were more readily available, and if I had been provided with more than an antidepressant and the offer of CBT.
“It’s great that public figures are normalising depression and anxiety, but they aren’t the only mental illnesses. I feel like people struggling with a different illness or people who need more support than taking antidepressants are still facing the same alienation as they always have done.”
When someone breaks a leg they aren’t asked to wait six months on a waiting list for a cast so why are mental health patients?
The system is already bursting at the seams with funding cuts thus increasing waiting times but those practicalities are little comfort to someone suffering. The NHS psychological therapy services are on offer to those who get past the red tape and wait but they are lagging behind the larger part of the NHS – the physical pains and problems we face.
1 in 4 adults will experience mental illness at some point each year, would you really want to wait? Only 15% of these adults will be seen by professionals, according to The Independent.
This figure is devastating, imagine if only 15% of cancer patients were seen by medical professionals? Applying this figure to a physical disease really highlights just how small the percentile is: but don’t you wish we didn’t have to apply it to a physical condition just for people to realise? It’s time the physical and mental health barriers were pulled down and we saw the two as equally important and serious.
However, one in four of the UK’s adult population is roughly 13 million people – that’s a lot. The NHS would run and hide, probably even cry, if every single one of these individuals were to check in – though you can also argue that everyone of the 13 million are crying too.
13 million people are suffering.
1 in 4 is a hell of a lot of people but keep in mind that current generations of people have new pressures entering their life every single day: social media is inescapable with constant scrutiny in everyone’s back pocket, we have more pay-monthly plans leaving our accounts every single year, cellphones have made most people’s 9 – 5 a constant on call corundum, the media is always telling us to be thinner and there’s always someone with a better ‘filter’ on their life.
Modern life is fast paced, packed with pressures and you’re never alone to just breathe – not when social media is a 24/7 cycle of scrolling, posting and like-counting.
We are all guilty of putting our mental health on the back burner in fear of missing out or falling behind, but in a fast paced society those who do take a break understandably fear just how much they will miss. Arguably this society isn’t one that we can realistically keep up with when we’re always speeding up.
Change is needed, necessary. The NHS aim to treat 25% of those suffering by 2020 and while the 10% increase set will be a huge help the biggest lesson here is to listen to ourselves, our bodies and minds. It’s time, as a society, that we recognise that nobody can keep up with this pace we are all guilty of setting.
Don’t suffer in silence, talk. Talk to anyone: friends, family, volunteers in the sector, professionals or charities.
Find a full A-Z list of helplines here.