By Celine Hawkins
In the UK, 75 per cent of mental illnesses are established by the age of 24. Furthermore, one in ten suicides reported are by those between the ages of 15 and 24. Indeed, these figures could suggest a rise in the people opening up about their experiences, but it also indicates a lack of help for those suffering.
With continuous funding cuts to the mental health services in this country (UEA, as an example, leaves students waiting up to twelve weeks for an appointment with a counsellor as a result of such budget constraints), it is no surprise that the problem surrounding the treatment of mental health is growing, and at an alarming rate. When a government appears to be giving up, how does it make those who need hope and reassurance feel? True, the growing discontent over the lack of sufficient support for those in need of help signifies an overthrow of the stigma of mental illnesses that has been so rampant throughout history, but it would be naïve to think that this stigma has been completely erased.
Though it is placed under another health bracket, mental health is the same as physical health. Nobody has 100 per cent perfect physical health, just like nobody has 100 per cent perfect mental health. It is that simple. So how can we work towards ending the uncomfortable atmosphere that comes with talking about mental health issues? By fighting fire with fire: keeping the conversation going.
Time to Change, set up in 2007 by Mind UK and Rethink Mental Illnesses, is both an annual event and online community that aims for ‘everyone with a mental health problem to be free of fear’ by ‘changing how we all think and act about mental health problems.’ It is a website that allows people to write about their own experiences in order to encourage and inspire others. Similarly, This Space, a submission based magazine, claims to ‘join the movement to destigmatise, without romanticising, mental health issues’.
The romanticism of mental health via social media, in particular Tumblr, often acts as a step in the wrong direction when trying to end the stigma surrounding mental health. Simply put, there is no aesthetic surrounding mental illness, as some websites would rather have you believe, because dealing with a mental illness is an all-consuming and sometimes frightening ordeal. Yet the reality of them is usually ignored in favour of making them a fashion statement (Urban Outfitters have excelled particularly in this – their clothing that celebrated eating disorders and depression definitely left its mark on people after being successfully pulled from its stores). In addition to this, those who do speak out are far too often shut down for seeking attention.
It is time to prove that maybe attention is what is required. Despite all the hurdles, the ability to keep the conversation flowing about mental illnesses is what will persevere over the torment in the end. The more that we open up about experiences, the more people will not only feel comfortable to talk about theirs but will also feel comfortable listening to them. It is a process that due to ignorance is taking longer than it needs to, but if the talk continues then the wall of stigma will fall. Suffering with a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, it is common and something that can be tackled. Focus on you and your wellbeing, not the remarks of those who do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Whether it is a general chat with your friends and family or to complete and total strangers, it is important that the conversation does not cease. It is time to start accepting mental illnesses for what they are: real.
Statistics can be found at these sites:
If you’re struggling and need someone to talk to, why not try these. Talking about it shouldn’t just be about ending the stigma but also helping your wellbeing:
Samaritans: 116 123 or +44 (0) 8457 909090
UEA Nightline: +44 (0) 1603 503504
Image from Unsplash