Home Mental Health & Well-Being Increase Awareness About Mental Illness This Mental Health Awareness Week (13th–19th May)

Increase Awareness About Mental Illness This Mental Health Awareness Week (13th–19th May)

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Millions of UK adults and young people have experienced or are currently experiencing the debilitating effects of a mental health disorder. In virtually every instance, individuals struggling with these conditions can recover and enjoy a substantially better life.

Lee Hawker-Lecesne, MBPsS, clinical director at The Cabin, Asia’s premier rehabilitation centre with over 50 years of clinical expertise, looks at how important awareness of the high incidence of mental health problems is and how people know the truth about how effective mental health services can be when a person is truly committed to changing their life.

Lee said: “By fostering open discussions and providing information about mental health disorders, this dedicated week aims to break down stigma and encourage individuals to seek support when needed.

Through educational initiatives, community events, and outreach campaigns, Mental Health Awareness Week seeks to empower individuals to take proactive steps towards managing their mental well-being and accessing the support they need to lead fulfilling lives.

By shining a spotlight on mental health and advocating for greater understanding and support, Mental Health Awareness Week plays a vital role in promoting positive mental health outcomes for individuals across the UK.”

Recent statistics highlight the significant challenges posed by mental health issues in the UK.

Signs of mental health difficulties to watch out for in your loved ones

You may be convinced that mental illness is a serious problem and that it is undertreated. You may be concerned that your loved ones are at risk, based on previous family history or present life circumstances. But you may not be able to help if you don’t know how to recognise the signs of mental illness. Without this awareness, you may begin rationalising or making excuses when the people you care about show signs of mental distress. Even if you eventually act, you may not act quickly enough.

Some of the clearest signs of a developing mental health disorder include:

  • Frequent mood swings
  • Reclusiveness, social withdrawal
  • Disinterest in activities that brought pleasure and joy in the past.
  • Impulsiveness, recklessness
  • Becoming easily frustrated or angry over small difficulties.
  • Negative or pessimistic attitudes
  • Confusion, an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality.
  • Sudden onset of addictive behaviours (substance abuse, compulsive gambling, constant Internet use, etc.)

One or two such symptoms may not indicate mental illness. But if you observe several of them, and their onset seems sudden or abrupt, there is real reason to be concerned. Mental health professionals can diagnose and treat all types of conditions. If your loved one is in trouble and needs assistance, a mental health expert can have a dramatically positive impact on their lives.

The connection between untreated mental illness and serious social problems

It’s important to be aware that mental health disorders are a complicating factor in a broad range of societal ills. When no help is offered, these conditions will become even more destructive. Significant life troubles will inevitably follow since mental illness affects every aspect of a person’s existence. There are strong connections between untreated mental health problems and several serious issues, including:

  • Homelessness. Mental illness will interfere with social and occupational functioning. Individuals with mental health disorders who don’t get help will struggle to manage their lives and meet their daily responsibilities. If the situation continues to escalate, homelessness is one possible result. A study by Crisis, a national charity for homeless people, found that 45% of homeless individuals in the UK reported experiencing mental health problems, ranging from anxiety and depression to more severe conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, individuals or families who are homeless lack access to affordable healthcare and often have no social support. They need mental health care desperately, but without some type of intervention, they are unlikely to receive it.
  • Substance abuse and dependence. Many studies have found that at least half of those who suffer from a mental health disorder also have substance use problems. Among adults who have a serious mental illness, including conditions like major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, one in four will have a substance use disorder as well. Research indicates a notable association between substance abuse issues and underlying mental health problems among adolescents in the UK. When a person suffers from a substance abuse problem and a mental health disorder simultaneously, it should be viewed as a medical emergency. Individuals who have this dual problem will require intensive, integrated mental health services that address each condition with equal focus.
  • Crime victimisation. Individuals with mental illness are more likely to becoming victims of crime and violence. There is a direct relationship between exposure to trauma and mental illness. Many of these terrible outcomes emerge from situations where abuse and violence are repeated over several years, in the context of an intimate or familial relationship of some type. Even when people manage to escape from violent or abusive situations, they’re likely to need help for mental illness for quite some time. Without it, they will remain at risk for many negative life outcomes.
  • Imprisonment. Mental health issues increase the odds of being involved in criminal activity, either as the perpetrator or the victim. Tragically, only a limited percentage of inmates will get the medical attention they require. This means they will leave prison still suffering, and if they don’t get help quickly, their chances of reoffending and ending up back in prison are high.
  • Unemployment. Men and women with mental health disorders of any type are three times more likely to be unemployed than those with no such diagnosis. Among those with serious mental illnesses, the ratio rises to seven-to-one. The Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that people with severe mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, have employment rates that are typically around 20–25%, compared to the national average employment rate of around 75%. This suggests a significant disparity in employment outcomes for individuals with severe mental health disorders. The struggles associated with untreated mental illness will interfere with job performance or even prevent people from trying to find employment in some cases.
  • Suicide. Suicide is not an act of desperation that can happen at any moment. Rather, it is the result of serious mental health issues that have not been addressed. Suicide is a leading cause of death among certain age groups in the UK. Among males, suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 5 to 49. Among females, it is the leading cause of death for those aged 5 to 34. Youth suicide remains a significant concern in the UK. While specific statistics may vary from year to year, suicide consistently ranks among the top causes of death for young people aged 10 to 24. Two recent meta-analyses concluded that as many as 90% of those who committed suicide had a diagnosable mental health disorder at the time of their deaths.  Somewhere between five and eight percent of people with a mental health disorder will ultimately choose suicide. On a global basis, just 1.4% of fatalities are the result of suicide. This means that a person with chronic mental health issues is four to five times more likely to take their own life than someone with a different medical history.

Why mental health care is so important

Beyond its devastating consequences for individuals and families, untreated mental illness takes a tremendous toll on society. Mental illness is a problem that affects us all collectively and challenges us to come up with universal solutions that can have a widespread impact. Lee comments: “Mental health disorders can and do respond to help. This makes the statistics all the more tragic, since bad outcomes are usually avoidable. Recovery from mental illness doesn’t happen overnight, but a person who enters a mental health facility with the support of their family and friends has an excellent chance of restoring their health and rescuing their future.”

As a concerned family member, community member, and citizen, you can help spread the word about Mental Health Awareness Week. Increased awareness about the impact of mental illness won’t solve the problem by itself. Without expanded awareness, more comprehensive steps won’t be possible. But once reality is acknowledged and the challenges it presents understood, the quest to overcome the devastating impact of mental illness can finally begin in earnest.

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