This probably won’t surprise anyone, but today I want to talk about mental health. Mainly, I want to point out the massive gaping hole in awareness. Which is ridiculous when we’re talking about something that directly or indirectly affects everyone in some way.
Something that I find ridiculous is that school never teaches us how to deal with stress. Like, normal stress. Stress with deadlines. Stress with desperately trying to live up to expectations. Stress with making friends. Stress with having to be a functional person. Maybe I missed that day. It’s possible. Probable, even. I had a lot of time off at critical stages of my young life.
One in five students, or 15-20% of the population, have a language based learning disability (such as Dyslexia).
But no one ever taught me that I was worth trying for. That I deserved to be the best I could be. Maybe they thought it was obvious. Everyone must know that they deserve the best for themselves, surely? I didn’t need support with the work, so I clearly didn’t need support anywhere else. See, I was one of those sickening kids that was just good at everything. I didn’t need to try to be above average, so I didn’t. I never reached my potential. I didn’t try. I never really knew how to try.
Everyone else around me had dreams they wanted to reach, but I was just there. Coasting along. I was just happy to be there. I knew I could probably do whatever I set my mind to. At least, to a passable standard. It didn’t matter where I went.
I never planned for a future that I didn’t think I really had.
Self-harm affects around one in twelve people, with 10% of 15 – 16 year old’s self-harming.
I thought I was lazy. Now, I realise it was something else.
I don’t remember my childhood. I don’t remember being terminally ill in hospital. I don’t remember making friends with other children, who weren’t as lucky as I was. I don’t remember the strain my illness put on my family. I don’t remember finding out on my birthday, watching comic relief, that a girl with my condition died since filming her piece. I don’t remember hearing that I wouldn’t make it past my twelfth birthday.
But typing this, my chest is tight. My throat is closed. My face is burning. I feel sick. And I’m shaking. Hard.
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
I always thought I was lazy. I stayed in my room, usually in the dark. I couldn’t be bothered to eat most of the time. I didn’t contact my friends, even when I was thinking about them. I wore loneliness like a second skin. It never occurred to me that maybe I could shrug it off. That would require too much effort. I didn’t even really care that I was so lazy.
Nowadays, I hate that word.
I still use it to describe myself all the time. It’s a habit I wish was easier to break out of. When I don’t have the energy to take care of myself: I’m lazy. When I can’t face walking down the road to the local Chinese takeout: I’m lazy. When I think about how I dropped out of university because I couldn’t handle the pressure of motivating myself, for my own sake: lazy.
Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
I see things differently now. At least, I try to. Now, I can see that I was surviving the best I could. I can sometimes even admit that it wasn’t my fault. Sometimes.
Seven billion people in the world. I’m not that special. I’m not important. My troubles are water off a duck’s back compared to yours. But if everyone were educated in mental health, fewer children would slip through the cracks. If everyone were aware that mental illness is just as valid as physical illness, suicide rates would drop.
1 in 5 anorexia deaths is by suicide.
If you have children, I bet you’re aware of the symptoms of meningitis. The warning signs. Things you should never ignore. I’m using meningitis as an example here because it terrifies me, just for reference. But mental health? Depression is a silent killer. Or is it? If we all knew how to listen to it, would it still claim so many lives?
I wanted to post some statistics for deaths caused by a well-known illness like meningitis, compared to those caused by mental illness. I couldn’t find any. Apparently it’s difficult to track how many deaths are caused by mental illness. Instead, I’ve dotted some other statistics through this post.
Buckle up for a doozy.
Suicides resulted in 828,000 global deaths in 2015
In the space of one year, 828,000 people took their own lives. Now, of course, we cannot link these to mental health. We cannot say every single one of these people were suffering with a diagnosable condition. We wouldn’t be stretching the laws of reality to suggest that these people needed help.
Mental health awareness isn’t only about medication and therapy. It’s about a healthy attitude towards mental health as a whole. Even someone without clinical depression will have down days. If everyone can recognise the signs, in themselves and others, we can save lives. If everyone understands that the picture perfect version of life we see in the media is a farce, we can save lives.
The highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 45-49.
I personally am not surprised that the highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 45-49. In most circles, it still isn’t socially acceptable for a man to talk about his feelings. For my generation, maybe, but 45-49? Not a chance. It isn’t manly. Don’t be a sissy. Feelings? Pah.
But we can talk about the dangers of toxic masculinity another time. That deserves attention of its own.
Just because it’s harder to measure the death toll, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The figures for mental health scare me, because they rely on people coming forward. How many more people are suffering, alone in the dark? How many more lives will be lost because they didn’t know that it’s OK not to be OK. The media paints a pretty picture of people being happy all the time. People having their shit together.
Don’t get me wrong, things are moving in the right direction. Crawling, inch by inch. But it feels like BLM and LGBTQ+ matters; people care for the month they are socially obligated to care. It’s politically correct to show solidarity this month, so we will. There’ll be trouble if we don’t show that we’re inclusive. Then it disappears until the community is “allowed” its time in the spotlight again.
Mental Health, BLM, and LGBTQ+ shouldn’t be one month. Loving each other shouldn’t be limited to one time of year. It should be all the time. If you can open your eyes, and your arms, for thirty days, you can do it full time.
An aside to the quoted statistics above, I cannot personally vouch for their accuracy. They’re sourced from: https://www.uksmobility.co.uk/blog/2019/03/mental-health-statistics/. The author has cited where each statistic came from originally. There is also a lot more information on there, about a variety of conditions, so please do take a look.
If you made it this far, please show me what you thought with a like or a comment.
This is a great post raising some very important issues. I’ve witnessed first hand how mental health isn’t given the attention it deserves because the medical profession always place physical health first. Inner damage is a lot less obvious, but can also be a lot deeper. We must learn to take care of our own mental health and the first step to this is talking about it openly, which you have done here. Well done!
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Thank you, Ingrid 🙂
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I spent a third of my life as an EMT in London, where a huge percentage of ambulance calls were generated by mental health conditions. I know people who still work there in that job, and they tell me that it is worse than ever now.
Many thanks for following my blog.
Best wishes, Pete.
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