Time to talk: Mental Health Awareness
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Topics breeze in and out of fashion in the modern era, but the topic of mental health is here to stay (we hope)
Let's get the facts straight
1 in 4 people will suffer from poor mental health within the next year
Around 20% of the world's children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems
Nearly 50% of mental disorders begin before the age of 14
Mental health is so unbelievably important. The stigma attached to mental health is one of the UK’s biggest issues and one which desperately needs to be removed. Let’s talk physical health. Think of your mate breaking their back…would you want them to go to hospital to get help? Would you want them to get it operated on? Would you be concerned about them? Would you let them go to work or school even if you knew it was broken? I doubt it.
One of the biggest drivers of poor mental health is the state of the society we're living in. We (especially young people) live in a society which revolves SO much around image. You’re expected to be cool. You’re expected to look good, have a toned body. You’re expected to live in the perfect world you think everyone else lives in ('perfect world you think everyone else lives in' is an important point, but we’ll come onto that). This social pressure is a huge driver of poor mental health. It’s so easy to see someone is not ok when you see them crying their eyes out, or when they’re being really quiet - and of course, these people must be supported. But, it is also a much bigger issue and picture than that. In today’s world, we’re so often forced to at the very least attempt to put a brave face over our issues. This is where the problem arrises. Life is so fast paced that we don’t always notice when someone is not ok, or even when we're not ok. They/we may be putting a brave face on, but are they/we definitely ok deep down?
A lethal ingredient to the problem of mental health is our hastiness to jump to conclusions and judge people that do anything outside what we’d do. If it’s not ‘’cool’’ or ‘’normal’’, it’s seen as being wrong, or weird. Is having a punctured lung ‘’weird’’? Or having cancer? No. Of course not. Neither is someone who is not mentally in the same place as you. Neither is someone who does something that you wouldn’t necessarily do, or wears something you wouldn’t wear, goes somewhere you wouldn’t go, or says something you wouldn’t say!
No one is always ok
Not a single person has spent 100% of their life being ok. Your favourite celebrity has not always been ok. The family you follow on Instagram and live your life in awe of, won’t always be a happy family.
I’m definitely not always ok and I’m more than happy to admit that (as anyone should be). Recently I’ve had to make some huge decisions regarding my future and my career and it’s safe to say there have been times where I have felt anxiety and stress that I haven’t really ever felt. There've been times I’ve had to take a step back, hold my hands up and just say ‘’this is effecting me a lot, I’m not feeling on top of the world right now’’.
BUT THIS IS OK AND THIS IS SO NORMAL.
What has helped me is that I’ve learnt to admit it. I’ve learnt to admit to the people around me when I am not ok and when I just want an arm around me. I’ve got a group of friends and family around me that I can turn to at the bad times, just as they can turn to me. This is an integral part to getting through tough times.
What needs to be done
The world needs to take a hard look at itself. We have to get young people to understand there’s no right or wrong way to live your life. As long as you’re not disadvantaging or hurting anyone else, be you! Say what you want. Go where you want. Be passionate about what you want. Wear what you want. I very rarely like to tell anyone to do something or not to do something, because everyone should be able to do whatever the hell they like and make their own decisions - but I definitely would tell everyone to just find who they are as a person, latch onto it, love it, and be proud of it!
Mental health needs to be addressed. It’s something which is slowly getting better, but it has a long way to go. The body is an unbelievably complex system, and it can do unbelievably incredible things, but so can the mind. The mind has no limits, which is brilliant, but it can also be detrimental.
Surround yourself with good people, and talk to them. Ask for a hug, ask them to tell you everything will be ok. I’d say that’s one of the most important bits of advice I could give anyone. Have a team in your life, even if it’s just with one other person, because we can’t do everything on our own. We need to hold our hands up sometimes and admit when we can’t do something, that’s when your team come to the rescue, and you’ll do the same for them.
I am a huge believer that big problems are solved by lots of little contributions, and mental health is no different. We can work towards a mentally healthier society, but it takes everyone. Life is fast paced, we do want to look good, but we must just take some time to say to ourselves - ‘’I wouldn’t do that, but they do, there must be a reason for it’’. Also, before you say something, or jump to a conclusion, think to yourself - are they ok? Is this the person I know? You can’t force people to talk out, but reassurance is the biggest gift you can give them. Reassurance that if at any time they need you, you’ll be there.
Finally, I am a huge advocate for mental health being talked about much more in schools. I was taught how to physically look after my body from a very early age, how to eat properly, exercise properly, but it must be drilled into children how to look after their minds too. I believe children must be brought up to be themselves, to be passionate about anything, go for it when they’re feeling good, and to tell people when they’re not feeling so good. I’m determined that one day when I have a family, this is how my children will be bought up. I certainly can’t see any way in which it won’t make for a healthier society.
Top tips to keeping your brain healthy
One last thing, I am by no means an expert, and I am not always ok, but I don’t see any harm in sharing the things I do to try and stay happy & mentally healthy (although of course these can be easier said than done):
Talk to people, talk to your team - this is the essence of the article, so I won’t repeat myself.
Write stuff down - splurging my thoughts down has really helped me, it’s a good technique to try if you’d rather not physically talk to someone.
Go for a run/walk/workout - if you can find a peaceful spot to physically take out all of your frustrations & stress, this can (ironically) be huge weight off your shoulders.
Enjoy the bad bits - you’ll have really shit jobs and really bleak days and weeks. I think it’s so important to accept that and enjoy them anyway. It’s easy to enjoy the good bits, but try to enjoy the bad bits too because it’ll build your character in the long run! Making a choice of which career path to pursue has been a source of stress for me, but what a bloody privilege to actually have a choice.
Don’t take anything too seriously - perspective is everything…the harsh reality is, one day we’ll all be dead (keeping things light aren’t I), so why stress over what to have for dinner.
Be kind to yourself - this is almost so simplistic it's confusing. I used to have it written next to my bed & it made a huge difference being aware of how you treat yourself.