Tomorrow, October 10th 2014, is World Mental Health Day.
As I begin to write this feature I recall films which depict how mental health was treated in the past, often with crippling effects. Girl, Interrupted starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie and Requiem for a Dream starring Ellen Burstyn are just two movies which have helped me to think about how important mental healthcare really is. It’s clear we’ve come a long way since the widespread use of electric shock syndrome and the prescription of amphetamines in the Sixties, but it’s still crucial to raise awareness and break the remaining taboos surrounding contemporary attitudes to mental health and wellbeing. “Mindfulness” may well have been the buzz word of 2014 so far, but more and more people are facing anxiety and depression.
About a quarter of the population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, a study shows. Intriguingly, women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men, although men are three times more likely to commit suicide. From this indication, it’s clear that women are more comfortable seeking help and advice, and it’s obvious to deduce that men could benefit from a serious change in the way we think about mental health. There are always options to explore which are surely preferable to suicide. Seeking support should never cause anybody, male or female, to feel embarrassed– and it’s not healthy to consider anxiety and mental health disorder ‘feminine’, unless you are some kind of quack from the Victorian era.
Even more shockingly, more than 70% of the prison population has two or more mental health disorders, according to a study by the Social Exclusion Unit in 2004.You might be forgiven for following the logic that, were we to treat the root symptom of mental health, placing research and treatment higher on our agendas, there might also be less criminals confined to the walls (at the taxpayers’ expense…of course).
While 1 in 5 older people suffer from depression, at least 10 percent of children are also affected. Clearly, there are few or no portions of society which are unaffected: criminals aside, tackling mental health could also allow the general population to enjoy greater wellbeing. For those on campus facing essay deadlines and financial pressures, promoting wellbeing should be something we take very seriously.
This year, Mental Health Day shines a light specifically on schizophrenia. Previous years have focussed on issues such as ‘Older Adults’ in 2013, and ‘Mealtimes’ in 2006. People diagnosed with schizophrenia have severely disrupted beliefs and experiences of reality. Although the exact causes are as yet unknown, episodes are associated with changes in the chemical make-up of the brain. According to the World Health Organisation, at least 26million people suffer from the condition globally – and presumably many more are indirectly affected.
Visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk for more information, or to organise a Tea and Talk event to help raise money for the Mental Health Foundation. The organisers are providing other recent, vital statistics and have special A3 posters available to download and print on the website which really send the message home: 90% of people with untreated schizophrenia live in the developing world, and 50% of people with schizophrenia cannot access adequate treatment.