Mental health has been receiving a lot of attention in the last year and with due concern. According to the world health organization (WHO), more than 300 million people are now living with the leading mental health disorder, depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.
Furthermore, it puts the annual loss to the global economy at $925bn. The World Health Organisation says that without more treatment, 12 billion working days will be lost to mental health each year to 2030.
Mental Health covers a spectrum of disorders including;
- Anxiety Disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
With known names such as Lady Gaga suffering from PTSD, to J.K. Rowling’s battle with depression, there are no shortage of high-profile figures raising awareness of mental health illnesses. Of course, there is also the tragic awareness of adorned celebrities such as Alexander McQueen and Robin Williams, who both took their own lives to escape their mental health demons.
One in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year. One in 17, lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In addition to a person’s directly experiencing a mental illness, family, friends, and communities are also affected.
Mental health is not really something new in our evolution either. The symptoms of depression, for example, have been found in every culture, including small-scale societies, such as the Ache of Paraguay and the Kung tribe of Southern Africa — societies where people are thought to live in environments similar to those that prevailed in our evolutionary past.
Even though there seems to be a social stigma around mental health, research in the US and other countries estimates that between 30 to 50 percent of people have met current psychiatric diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder sometime in their lives.
This paradox could be resolved if such disorders were a problem of growing old. The functioning of all body systems and organs, including the brain, tends to deteriorate with age. This is not a satisfactory explanation for many mental health issues, as people are more commonly experiencing their first bout in adolescence and young adulthood.
Scientists are still learning new things about where conditions come from, while sufferers figure out how to cope. So how does this effect a mental health advocate, and what are the challenges they are facing?
The perception of mental health from a medical, political and social standpoint, is like that of all diseases. You get diagnosed and treated accordingly and then you are either considered ‘cured’ of your ailment or ‘coping’ with it sufficiently, that it only warrants monitoring. This begs the question, is mental health something you become a survivor of or an ongoing ‘victim’ of?
The World Health Organisation says that nearly one in every 10 people has a mental health disorder, but just 1% of the global health workforce is working as psychiatrists, occupational therapists or social workers. I don’t know about you, but to me, the maths don’t add up!
As a Mental Health Advocate, don’t we need to be creating more of a balance and creating more of a support and informational network?
In a study published in the Lancet Psychiatry and based on health treatment costs and outcomes in 36 countries, which was billed as the first worldwide estimate of the health and economic benefits of investing in treating the most common mental health diseases.
Its authors say every $1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a $4 return in better health and ability to work.
The other aspect that I think influences this, is changing what the mental health label actually means.
In truth, every mental health disorder is invented, not discovered. Furthermore, we have allowed science and medicine to define where the line between normal and abnormal behavior is drawn.
What if we changed our stance to one of that any mental health issue is merely just a biological alarm system, designed to stop us from functioning properly when one or more of our innate needs as a human being isn’t being met.
This then allows us to see depression, bipolar or anxiety as an opportunity to change how we view the world, and how we prioritize the things that are most important in our life, whether relationships, career, or health.
Let me pose this question to you. Is having Mental Health disorder a disease that defines you into a societal box, that then determines how you should live your life or is it an opportunity to recalibrate your personal compass of self-awareness and take stock of what you have created in life, with a view to adopting a new way of living going forward?
British philosopher, writer, and speaker, Alan Watt’s encapsulate this perfectly: “The point is that rapport with the marvelously purposeless world of nature gives us new eyes for ourselves – eyes in which our very self-importance is not condemned, but seen as something quite other than what it imagines itself to be. In this light, all the weirdly abstract and pompous pursuits of men are suddenly transformed into natural marvels of the same order as the immense beaks of the toucans and hornbills, the fabulous tails of the birds of paradise, the towering necks of the giraffes, and the vividly polychromed posteriors of the baboons… Seen thus, the self-importance of man dissolves in laughter.”
In conclusion. Having any mental health challenge is not something you can see, and it can be ‘difficult to get your head around’ it. It’s a very personal experience that ultimately only the individual going through really only understands. As a Mental Health Advocate, it about giving people the support and space to explore what it means for them.
In the words of Lady Gaga:
“My Mental Health Changing, Changed My Life” -(@ladygaga) Click To Tweet
Scaling-up treatment of depression and anxiety: a global return on investment analysis –
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