May is Mental Health Awareness Month – What do we know about mental health?
By Liz Lockhart
May is Mental Health Awareness month and England is celebrating 23rd – 30th May as Mental Health Week. So I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on the changes that have, or are occurring to the treatment and attitudes surrounding mental health.
Working for Uncovered Magazine has been a real eye-opener to me when it comes to all aspects of mental health. I thought that I knew quite a lot about it, having been affected both directly and indirectly by the subject.
I learn new things every day from research and from the letters which our readers send to us here at Uncovered.
Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Week should be a time to celebrate the advances in the mental health field and to bring awareness of the ongoing struggles of mental illness. It is also hoped that through awareness we can put to rest some of the continued stigmas that persist surrounding mental illness.
There have been advances in science, research and medicine, but the common feeling continues that mental illness is in some way or another due to a lack of character or motivation. It has also been implied that mental disorders are borne by those who are not ‘strong’ enough to overcome them.
Let me assure anyone who has not suffered from mental disorder that lack of strength can be immediately crossed off the list of suspected shortcomings. The strength that is required to bear mental ill health is immeasurable. The courage of its victims is boundless.
Stigma is one of the main causes for people not seeking treatment at the outset of a disorder, and this is typically when disorders are easiest to treat and overcome.
Research and surveys hold some promising news for sufferers of mental health disorders. Employers are being encouraged to give help to any of their staff who report symptoms of stress and anxiety, which is encouraging. And just look at the fact we have a mainstream magazine like Uncovered sat on shop shelves next to ‘physical’ health titles.
There is a long, long way to go, until the population at large begin to fully understand mental health problems and start accepting and supporting sufferers as they would a person suffering a physical ailment, but we have indeed come far – after all it wasn’t many decades ago that one could be whisked off to the asylum for being gay! However these days we hear far more sad stories about the lack of hospital places and the unavailability of professional help and care.
If you know anyone who is affected by mental health issues then stop and think a while. Don’t look on them as weak but realise how strong they are. Don’t pity them but encourage them. Most sufferers haven’t ‘lost their marbles’ in any way and do not need to be treated as though they are in any way lesser able to function.
This month is an opportunity to celebrate the advances, break down stigma, but to also reflect on what we as individuals can do to dispel the myths surrounding mental illness.
Let us know what you are doing this mental health awareness week.