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Mental Health – The Buzzword or Change?

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Mental health is such the buzz word right now. Talking to several friends and they were saying: ‘It is such the in thing to have anxiety and depression and it’s the excuse for everything.’

As you can imagine, this really got to me. Not what they said, although that is frustrating, they weren’t having a go or digging at those that do have mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression but, annoyingly, I think they have a point. But before you get annoyed at me and hunt me down with torches and pitchforks, hear me out.

The mental health movement has taken leaps and bounds in the last 10 years or so. There are many, many conversations on the matter. Celebrations of talking openly and applauded for doing so. And rightly so, as it shows others it’s OK to talk about their issues in an everyday setting.

You just have to look at the charities and causes and awareness days there are to see, it is expressed more than ever before. Mental health services are shown to need more help than any other time because of this, and this is great news. But, there’s always a but. It’s a big but. Take a proper look around. Everyone shouting awareness on the day but, day to day where is it. The action is lacking. Let’s break it down, shall we?

The government has been promising for a minimum of five years plan for the last 11 years. Yet, mental health services are around the lowest funded service in the NHS. Promising on millions yet that doesn’t even cover a drop in the pool of that is needed. Now I’m not going to bad mouth the NHS, it does great work but, is by far understaffed and underpaid. And sadly, a lot of the cuts are around mental health services.

Physical is before mental is usually the horse before the cart. Although there’s countless studies show mental health affects the physical. The horse is great upfront but, if it doesn’t know the direction, then it has no idea where to go. They are one of the same. Surely it is time for the government to recognise just because you cannot see it or in funding cases, see it getting better like a broken leg, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need the support.

Moving on to celebrities, I get a little nit-picky here, but I think it’s a valid point. Celebrities (some cases celebrities are used loosely as being on TV seems to be all it takes) speaking about their anxiety and depression is great. Yes, speak, use your platform to get the ball rolling.

Although the buck seems to stop at anxiety and depression. What about the rest of DSM-5 (the American psychologist book for determining psychological disorders), where are celebrities speaking on eating disorders, bipolar personality disorders and schizophrenia? I can think of two main celebrates that do/did: Stephen Fry and the late, great Carrie Fisher. Yes, if you look and listen there’s still small talk and slowly there are voices, like Hope Virgo campaigning for change on eating disorders. But I could ask several people about her and not many would know. This doesn’t seem right.

There also seems to be an epidemic of influencers and advocates that are speaking on mental health’s behalf, with no understanding. Instagram and Facebook and Twitter are great for reaching out and finding others like you but, it is superficial. To advocate for something is to know what the ins and out, to know your homework. In law, an advocate can be a point of call, but they cannot tell you what to do. So why is it OK for influencers (also a buzz word) to advise on mental health. It can be deadly. This can lead to self-diagnoses.

Self-diagnoses are one of the biggest downfalls to the new kind of stigma floating around mental health issues. There’s a difference between depressive period and depression, being anxious and having anxiety. And only a doctor that is certified in that field can diagnose you. Not even your GP can. They can advise, given their medical background but, cannot diagnose you.

Someone else said to me: ‘There’s so many crazies it is hard to tell the normal people’. This is the new stigma. Of course, I corrected them on the word ‘crazies’. But their attitude was hard to argue. How do we know who really needs the help if they’re clumped in with self-diagnoses, government not caring, celebrities only speaking of certain issues? So essentially only deeming them worth to talk about and, so-called influencers and advocates getting everyone fed up of the terms.

There’s mental health and mental health issues. Mental health is every day. Like physical you look after your body, a little exercise, feed it right and sleep. Mental health is giving your mind a rest. Having fun every now and again. Maintaining a balance for yourself and your habits. Mental health issues are when that is not sustained over a long period of time and something goes wrong or something biological means you can’t.

We need to know the difference and understand it to really help those that feel they cannot speak out. The word is out, now it’s time for the education.

Lynne Scrafton runs the podcast ‘A Cuppa With‘. You can learn more about her works on mental health from her website

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