Mental Health Awareness

mental_health_awarenessWhen we say the word “health” many things spring to mind, such as exercise, healthy eating, and the avoidance of illness. However, last Monday, the 20th of January, was dubbed as 2014’s “Blue Monday”. “Blue Monday” is apparently the most “depressing” day of the year, and with the cold, dark weather outside it seems hardly surprising. However, despite this day not really carrying much weight psychologically (there is no proof that this day is any more depressing than any other day in January), and has been labelled a type of pseudoscience by academics, it can be argued that it does have a deeper significance in building awareness and breaking down barriers surrounding mental health.

Mental health is still something that is still largely ignored or stigmatised by society, making people feel uncomfortable or unable to speak out about their experiences and making it difficult for them to seek help. However, pushing it to the forefront of the public consciousness through “Blue Monday” is definitely a step in the right direction, although I would argue that it needs to be highlighted for more than one day a year, and in a way that takes mental health issues like depression seriously and doesn’t just label being ‘blue’ or mildly upset along with depressed.

According to the NHS website, around 1 in 4 people experience some type of mental health issue throughout their lives. The mental health foundation (mentalhealth.org.uk) have expanded upon this sharing that the most common mental health issue in Britain is a mixture of anxiety and depression, and, of these people, more women are more likely to have been treated for mental health problems relating to anxiety and depression than men.  This indicates that despite women being more able to speak out about issues that they have been having and being comfortable enough to seek the professional help they need (perhaps after talking to friends and family), men still aren’t.

One of the main reasons for this is perhaps the social expectation’s of what it is to be a man and not talking about emotional issues that they may be going through with support systems that may or may not be in place, but it is also due to the types of mental health issues that affect men and women and how they affect the genders differently. The National Institute for clinical excellence have even suggested that the number of men being diagnosed with depression is lower than women because when they do go to the doctor with concerns, the symptoms that they have of depression physiologically present different.

Regardless of gender or social expectations and pressures however, we have to talk about mental illnesses and take them seriously, for a healthy body is only good thing when accompanied by a healthy mind.