As you are probably aware, World Mental Health Day was the 10th of October. But this article has been published deliberately late. It seems like every day is a new “International (x) day” or “national (y) day”. In modern society everything is so temporary. We only briefly focus on a topic, but it seems that it’s out of our heads at the same rate as it appears. Tomorrow is a new day, after all, with new news, and we all know that if it doesn’t have a catchy title, it won’t generate traffic. However, this way of being and thinking is toxic: it inhibits progress.
Now, by no means am I downplaying the importance of such days as the World Mental Health Day. However, the conversation – and our care monitoring what we say to one another – needs to last the whole year. While your Facebook feed may be flooded with heartfelt quotes on a pastel background today it’s easy to forget about tomorrow, especially in the age of the internet. Social media and news outlets are bursting with new information, demanding our attention, and we are left struggling to keep up with it all.
A sad fact of our times is that mental health is downplayed as being a weakness by some, or something that people feel they need to hide in order to ‘get by’. This can have devastating effects on the people who suffer from these mental health issues. People can feel isolated and avoid seeking help when they should. No one should feel ashamed of themselves for something that they can’t control. Yet, 28% of people waited over a year before they told their family about their mental illness, while 8.5% of sufferers still haven’t told them. No one should ever feel isolated or weak for seeking help.
This subject is extensive and delicate, but the conversation is needed. The social stigmas surrounding mental health need to change and that can only be achieved in the way it is spoken about and treated within society. I cannot recount the amount of times I have heard jokes about mental health issues: whether it’s people comparing a minor habit to OCD or a dislike to having an anxiety attack. In an age where what you say really does matter (just ask Donald Trump about the comments he made as ‘manly banter’ eleven years ago). When people take offense to a crude joke it isn’t “political correctness gone mad”. It’s the right thing to do. People need to be called out on their inappropriate behaviour more often.
Important steps have undoubtedly been made and when there are so many things to address within modern society (and the internet has granted us the means to do so collectively) it is hard to keep all the important conversations going when there are so many. There is so much to raise awareness for and, alas, only so many days in the year. Yet, mental health is consistently under-funded within the government with a recent report stating that NHS mental health funding is still lagging behind. The discrepancy between physical and mental health priorities within the NHS is still astounding, mental ill-health accounts for 13% of the NHS’s budget despite being told back in 2012 to give physical and mental health equal priority.
Throughout the time that it took me to write this article I’ve constantly cut out sentences and words and double checked that things were ‘okay’ to write about, but now I find myself thinking that that whole process is also part of the problem. Why does there have to be such a huge deal when it comes to talking about mental health? It’s a problem that seems to be kept hush-hush when really it needs to be shouted about from the rooftops, especially seeing as 1 in 4 brits will experience a mental health problem in any given year. We need to change that.