Today is a very important day. Today marks world mental health day.
Not only is it important for everyone, it is very close to my heart as someone who suffers with mental health issues.
It seemed apt when I realised what day it was this morning as I got to work feeling a little low. Like everyone, I have good days and bad days, it’s just that as someone who has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety my bad days can be pretty bleak.
I’ve learned a lot in recent years about mental health as I’ve tried to deal with my issues, and I still find it incredibly strange that despite it being quite a common occurrence, there is still such a stigma around it and little to no education.
I still find it almost funny that those who do not understand or have not suffered mental health issues think it’s acceptable to tell someone who has depression to “cheer up”. This is not helpful in the slightest. I have to wonder if they think that we enjoy being in the depths of despair and that we are being purposefully miserable. If it was as simple as just “cheering up”, then there wouldn’t be such a thing as clinical depression. I also find it insulting when people used the term ‘depressed’ or ‘depressing’ for things that are just a little bit, well, ‘shit’ for want of a better word. If you have ever suffered with depression, you would not use the term so flippantly. Depression is an overwhelming black cloud. A suffocating and oppressive beast who delights in sapping you of energy and relishes in making you feel worthless.
You may be reading this and thinking that mental health issues aren’t actually that commonplace and that you’ll never have it touch you in any way, but perhaps if you heard some statistics you would realise that it’s something that truly requires us all to stand up and take notice.
According to the mental health charity Mind (www.mind.org.uk) 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer with a metal health problem each year. That’s a huge amount. (Funnily enough, there are 4 people in my team at work and I’m the ‘one’). A survey is carried out every 7 years in England to measure the number of people who have different types of mental health problems each year. The last published survey was in 2009, and the results are truly staggering.
Depression – 2.6 in 100 people
Anxiety – 4.7 in 100 people
Mixed anxiety and depression – 9.7 in 100 people
Phobias - 2.6 in 100 people
OCD – 1.3 in 100 people
Panic Disorder – 1.2 in 100 people
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – 3.0 in 100 people
Eating Disorders – 1.6 in 100 people
Some problems are asked about over a person’s lifetime, rather than each year, but it still makes for compelling reading:
Suicidal thoughts – 17 in 100 people
Self-harm – 3 in 100 people
With statistics like these, should we not be more open to learning about mental health issues? We seem to be very quick to accept illnesses such as cancer and want to do everything we can do eliminate them but do you realise that depression can be fatal too? Either through suicide or simply through giving up the will to live.
There was a time, and not even that long ago, where my depression almost consumed me. I could have let that evil creature take me and drown me in its depths. I am lucky I didn’t let it win. I am lucky that I see light at the end of the tunnel. I battle that creature every day to a certain extent with some days being easy and I’m strong enough to keep it at bay and others where it becomes that much harder, but I couldn’t have done it without help and understanding from loved ones, friends and mental health professionals.
Can we please stop the stigma? Surely it’s about time we made a change and started being kinder both to each other and ourselves?
Don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed by your condition or, more importantly, to ask for help.
NB: If you feel you are struggling and need to talk to someone, visit Mind’s website (www.mind.org.uk); contact The Samaritans on 116 123 (UK & ROI) or firstname.lastname@example.org; or see your GP.