It’s mental health week this week and finally the world is waking up to what has previously been a taboo subject. 

With our British ‘stiff upper lip’  it is little wonder that so many people suffering with depression, anxiety and poor mental health feel too embarrassed to discuss it. 

The ‘black dog’ has been a dirty word for a very long time. A sign of weakness perhaps or something those unaffected find impossible to comprehend let alone empathise with.

‘What have you got to complain about?’ Or ‘Pull yourself together’ are common reactions given to people feeling particularly low. Unhelpful and demoralising at best. 

It’s utterly bizarre as with any issues we have with our body, skin or digestion even,  we feel perfectly comfortable  visiting a doctor, nutritionist, dermatologist or masseur to discuss and fix. We feel happy to chat about these issues to friends and family with no fear of criticism or judgment. 

So why won’t we seek help over an issue with our mental wellbeing. Why won’t we admit to  friends and family that we are struggling?

The NHS suffers from a shortage of staff in mental health, often leading to huge waiting periods to be seen. With significant mental illness this really isn’t an option and can have dire consequences.  Currently In parts of London we are looking at 20 % of mental health nursing posts still unfilled 40% of the mental health workforce being made up of support workers.

Mental health did take the unusual step of employing peer support workers ( former service users who have suffered themselves and understand) to offer guidance and support, but these PSW’s are not always paid for their time and effort. The Five year forward view is looking to tackle that problem and ensure that peer support is seen as part of the workforce.

Mental health problems can swoop in and envelope us in a dark cloak of self doubt at any time. Perhaps following a trauma, grief, post birth, following a personal crisis but for a large majority of people it can hit almost from nowhere with no rhyme or reason.   It is important to get the message across that there doesn’t have to be a tangible reason, there needn’t be a big explanation in order for it to be acceptable. It just is.

There should be no embarrassment in having feelings of anxiety and self doubt. Mental health needs healing without shame. 

One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some time. Women are twice as likely to experience anxiety as men, yet the highest rate for suicide in the UK is for men aged 40-44yrs.  These are pretty devastating statistics. 

Prince Harry has recently been shining the torch on mental health and opened up about his own personal struggles, which helps hugely to reduce the stigma attached. Mental health  problems can affect anyone at any time of life. It is not a sign of weakness, it is not something to be ashamed of and it is much more common than imagined.

IndexR …championing ‘Heads Together’

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