Mental health is misunderstood in our society. Most people who are aware that mental health exists usually think it’s synonymous with mental illness, and see mental illness as something awful and frightening.
But mental health isn’t just front-page disaster pieces for tabloids, or a celebrity crisis. We all have a physical health, and we all have a mental health: we must all remember that fact so we can change society, to make it more welcoming of people with illnesses that affect their health, be it physical or mental.
Just like you would never blame someone for getting physically ill, we need to take the same approach to mental health. Blame and silence around health is one of the biggest killers in Britain.
Silence is one of the explanations for why the biggest killer of men under 25 is suicide, and men have a shorter life expectancy in general. Because masculinity is associated with phrases like “man up” and a stiff upper lip, people would rather die rather than admit the problems they are going through. Unless we, as a society, learn to accept that we need to talk about our health problems, they will keep killing the people around us.
When we accept that mental illness is just as real and just as much as a problem as physical health problems for many people, we can see the injustice of our society. Once a person has escaped their silence and courageously sought help, there is often a lack of sufficient resources in the NHS to deal with mental health problems.
It appears to be a lottery on how mental health is treated across the country. You might get great care that patients will beam about for the rest of their life and will attribute to them living a thriving life despite illness, or you could receive care that can be entirely detrimental to a person’s health.
Considering one in three people at any one time have a mental health problem, it’s troubling that there have been so many examples of malpractice. There have been numerous occasions where police cells have been used to hold people suffering from a severe mental illness, and this should not be acceptable to us.
Society is treating people who are unwell and need treatment from medical professionals like criminals. This wouldn’t be acceptable for someone who may have lashed out during a seizure, why is it acceptable when someone has lashed out during a manic episode? Both are symptoms of an illness, both are of non-malicious intent, and both are times when the chemicals in the body have caused involuntary actions.
All we can hope for is that more people in the future understand that mental health is just as important as physical health. We must all take steps to look after ourselves, look after our friends, family and colleagues, and make time to talk about mental health. Once the taboo and misconceptions are broken, we can make the changes society needs to treat everyone fairly and equally.