How Do We Talk About Mental Health?

How Do We Talk About Mental Health?

Chapter 81
10.3 million people in the UK hold a gym membership, that's over 15% of the total population. Across the country, mental health needs are high, but responses are insufficient and inadequate. So how do we talk about it?
Tweet This

Mental health is critically important to everyone, everywhere. It plays just as important a part as our physical health in our ability to live our lives to the full. Since 2021, 10.3 million people in the UK hold a gym membership, (that’s over 15% of the total population) and the benefit of looking after our physical health is widely understood. How does that change when we speak about mental health? In a capitalist world where emotional self-care is an act of rebellion, how do we foster an environment where mental wellbeing is respected and supported in the same way? 

From primary schools to business professionals, terms like resilience and wellbeing have become part of our everyday language, but how are these initiatives being received?

Across the country, mental health needs are high, but responses are insufficient and inadequate.

Building the capacity of schools to provide socio-emotional support has been prioritised in recent decades. However, despite policy changes to implement more mental health services in schools, these services still remain widely underutilised by young people experiencing mental health problems. A better understanding of the factors impacting students’ decisions to seek help or use resources provided in a school setting is crucial. In spite of the progress being made, mental ill health is still stigmatised. Many students have a negative outlook of mental health services because of fear of being stereotyped or embarrassed as a result of receiving school counselling.

Despite more discussion about mental health during the pandemic, stigma at work endures. People remain hesitant about vocalising their increased stress and anxiety to employers. A significant number who have taken time off work for mental health reasons have given their employer a different reason for this absence.

Stigma, discrimination and human rights violations against people with mental health conditions are widespread in our communities and the care system. It is often the poorest and most disadvantaged in society who are at greatest risk of mental ill-health and who are also the least likely to receive adequate services.

Even before the pandemic, just a small fraction of people in need had access to effective, affordable and quality mental health care. Social and economic inequalities, public health emergencies, government policies and the climate crisis are among the national, structural threats to mental health. Depression and anxiety went up by more than 25% in the first year of the pandemic alone.

We know that prevention is better than cure, but that would involve all stakeholders working together to deepen the value and commitment given to mental health, reshape the environments that influence mental health, and strengthen the systems that care for mental health. There are currently 1.4 million people awaiting treatment for mental health issues in the UK and this will only get worse before the government publishes a mental health recovery plan outlining a roadmap to reducing waiting times.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Good mental health translates to good physical health. The inextricable links between mental health and public health, human rights and socioeconomic development mean that transforming policy and practice in mental health can deliver real, substantive benefits for individuals, communities and countries everywhere. Investment into mental health is an investment into a better life and future for all.”

What is the perceived value of mental health care when compared to gym membership, for example? Those who can afford to, would not think twice about spending up to £80 on a monthly gym membership or more to hire a personal trainer. Would you spend the same amount on seeing a psychotherapist each month? What are the options for those who have need but no budget? Why does mental health self-care feel like a luxury? 

How we talk about Mental Health is one of the topics are this years #LIFI22.